Actions

Work Header

Wonderland Roulette

Chapter Text

Chapter 1

 

Alice would have been searching for me. I could practically see her bursting through the door doing her ... whatever it was that she had done to save me from Dodo last time. But the room stayed almost empty. Alice was a crowd in and of herself and any room with her in it could never be described as ‘almost empty’. She had a presence that made her impossible to ignore. Or maybe that was just me.

 

Across the table was the aforementioned Dodo; his sunken eyes glaring at me. I shifted a little in my seat. I hated being stared at. Particularly by someone who wanted to kill me.

I had no idea what was his game was. All I knew was that me and Alice had been on a beach looking for a Charlie that was probably dead and arguing loudly about her 'boyfriend', Jack Heart. Ugh. When some people wearing the insignia of the resistance had emerged from the trees I was almost glad for the interruption. I had turned to greet them, forgetting their boss’s threat not a week before.

 


 

"Hatter! What are you doing?" Alice cried, grabbing me and pulling me back "Did you forget that we’re being hunted down by both sides?"

 

She was panicked, I could tell that much no matter how she tried to hide it. I could see in her eyes that she was scared to take on so many. We would lose, she was sure of it, but that didn’t stop her from calling to them as they advanced.

"Take ONE more step towards us and it will be your last!" God she was fiery, I almost chuckled as some of them actually stopped, glancing at each other uncertainly. Then again, if Alice had been looking at me like that then I would have been running in the opposite direction... Theoretically. I knew that despite her temper and the constant arguing and questions and her stupid gullibility when it came to Jack, I could never run away and abandon her. Not now she was so unsure of herself and she needed someone to keep her grounded. Not that she knew it, of course.

After that first brief hesitation of some of the more cowardly resistance, Dodo's right hand man stepped forward and held up his hand to stop Alice before she pounced.

 

"You needn’t fear girl, we are only here for Hatter, oh, and the ring," he said, holding out his hand expectantly. Alice knocked it aside, harder than necessary judging by the wince and the small, satisfied smirk on Alice’s face.

 

"Well the ring I haven’t got and Hatter you can’t have" she said, chin jutting out in defiance,

 

I was touched; I would’ve thought that she wanted rid of me as soon as possible. The corners of my lips turned up slightly at her words, without my express command.

 

Handy’s lips tightened and he sighed, motioning his men to attack,

"Now that’s a shame, we’ll just have to take him instead."

 

And they were on her, obviously taking out the threat before moving in on the actual target, I could barely see her as she fought, fought for me.

 

I never knew she cared.

 

I ran into the fray, using my trusty right fist to throw some incapacitating punches, trying to get to Alice. She saw me and yelled, eyes wide and frightened, blood trickling from a cut on her forehead.

 

"NO! Hatter get out of here! It’s you they want. Run!" But I couldn’t, I couldn’t leave her to get killed by the people I’d once considered my friends. I ignored her words and carried on punching and fighting until I heard a cry, I spun around just in time to see Alice slump to the floor. a guy leered at her prone form and withdrew the highly powered cattle prod before turning to me.

I punched him, in the head, with my right fist. My anger was such that it gave me the strength to crack stone, a skull was nothing. He went down, blood pooling out his ears. I had just killed someone. And I didn’t care. All I cared about was getting to Alice. Those cattle prods were certainly enough to render someone unconscious and if it was held to the victim for long enough...

 

I was barely aware of the arms on me, dragging me back to the tree line,

"NO!" I yelled, struggling to get back to the frail, blue and purple figure lying motionless on the beach, "Alice!"

 

I didn’t care about the tears. I didn’t care that these people were taking me to meet a worse fate than hers. All I cared about was that she had been fighting for me and I had let her down.

 

I should have run, I realised too late; if I had run then they would have left her and come for me, then she would have been able to take those that were left and no one would have used the cattle prod.

 

She wouldn't have died.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

 

So that’s how I ended up at this table with Dodo. Right hand tied down, the other hanging limply at my side.

 

I didn’t care what happened to me now. Not if Alice wasn’t there to care too. I remembered her as she walked into my Tea shop; a dripping wet, confused and slightly annoyed Oyster.

 


 

 

"Who are you?" she had asked me, trying to put on a tough face. Her vulnerability had bled through anyway. An Oyster, here in my shop. It was ridiculous. How she wasn't already at the casino preparing to fill my Tea Pots was beyond me. Yet here she was. And I was rather a fan of the ridiculous.

 

"A friend. I hope," and then, I did hope, but I wasn’t bothered. I remember assuming she would leave, just turn around and back out of my life as suddenly as she'd arrived. I would have shrugged and shaken my head at the waste. Then.

 

Then I found out that she didn’t trust me. It wasn’t a surprise really, considering she’d known me all of 10 minutes but I was so used to being considered an approachable, well-respected, trustworthy person. (well… so they think.)

"I am genuinely hurt" I had said, after throwing the coat down. And I was, a little. Taken aback more than anything. "Do you know why they call me Hatter?" I had asked, expecting her to answer with a 'no' of some kind.

 

"Because you wear a hat?"

I stopped. This Oyster was smart. Everyone I first asked that question to always tried to come up with something clever. I was called 'Hatter' because I was as changeable as the wind some would say. 'Hatter' was my name because I fitted people, giving them the right Tea to suit what they needed. Over the years I’d almost forgotten that I did wear a hat. My hat was important but I’d never associated it with my name...

 

Maybe that was why people called me Hatter. I honestly had no idea.

But I couldn’t let her be right in my own shop.

 

"No. Because I’m always there when they pass the hat." I stopped again, confusing myself. "So to speak." Wow, this was hard, "philanthropy, generosity." Ok, now that was an outright lie. I was known for helping people only if I needed to. But I did want to help her, she just looked so alone.

 

It was only afterwards that I discovered her resolve, her determination to help those that she believed in and that was precious few. She held on and stuck like obsession only in a good way.

 

She has been hurt. I realised as she almost danced her way down the street; never letting go of the wall, talking about liking Jack, that he was the only one who meant anything to her. This set off an alarm. She had major trust issues. And she trusted this Jack. I didn’t know what he had done to earn it but I knew what I would do. I would help her.

 

As soon as we struggled out of the water onto the beach, I found out that she still didn’t trust me. I had risked my pathetic life to get her out of that casino. Seeing her there in that room, only a floating writing desk and a few rapidly disappearing splinters holding her up, knowing her fear of heights, I had really thought that she was incredible. Her fear palpable but she refused to let it take her over,

And she jumped into my arms.

 

I had wanted to hold her for longer than I did, to make sure she was alright. But Charlie had found the exit and we didn’t have time to wait.

 

And she still didn’t trust me.

She trusted Jack. No matter how much the knowledge of him being a Heart and engaged and messing her around hurt, she still trusted him. She hoped he was trustworthy. And although I was as jealous as a Jub Jub bird, I could see why. She held on to anything that might mean that she had made the right choice in trusting Jack; she couldn’t bear the fact that after all her wariness, her careful isolation, her walls, that she may have fallen for someone who was going to just let her down again. The thought that the first time she let herself trust and she had been wrong destroyed her. She wanted to trust people. But this was turning out to be another entry in her book of failures.

 

I couldn’t let her feel that. I couldn’t let her whole world, everything she put faith in be yanked out from under her.

So I argued, and we were overheard.

 


 

 

Although she didn’t trust me, she stood up for me.

 

She fought for me.

 

And she died for me.

 

I couldn’t bear that thought. That while I was here, about to be tortured or whatever she was rotting on some beach somewhere and no one knew but some of Dodo's lackeys,

and no one cared.

No one cared that the only person who had given me a full and undeniable purpose. The person I could never have turned away from was lying dead out there because of me.

 I had banged on at her about trust and trusting Jack and what he had done to her and I had let her down.

 

I had killed her.

 

I killed Alice.

 

I gulped. Trying to swallow the ball of emotion in my throat, the kind that wouldn't be bottled as a treacherous tear rolled down my cheek.

 

Dodo laughed softly and I shot him a look of such hatred that he flinched. I tensed my right fist. Immobile though it may be it was still comforting to know that I could crack his skull with one well placed punch.

 

"Why the tears Hatter?" he mocked, "sorry about your impending death? Or the immense pain leading to it? Or that you finally realised that you could never get the better of me?"

 

What was he talking about? I didn’t care about any of those things, but I just glared at him while he laughed.

 

"Oh, I know. It's because of your little Oyster."

 

I started, a flash of pain cutting at my chest as Dodo chuckled again, reaching under the table and bringing out from under it a gun. He placed it on the table and raised his hand. This signaled the doors to open and two men entered, dragging with them a figure. Chained, gagged and unconscious, the figure was placed in another chair and the chains were replaced until she was secured like I was.

 

Alice!

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

 

"Alice?" I whispered. She didn’t stir but I could see her breathing. She was alive! The men removed her gag and retreated.

 

Relief. Such sweet relief and happiness flooded through me. I reached out with my right hand to touch her, forgetting for a moment where I was. It didn’t move and fear thrummed through me for the first time. She was alive yes, but she was here. I knew that Dodo would have no qualms about hurting a woman; an Oyster especially.

 

She was hurt; there were bruises over her arms and face where she had been fighting.

 

"Yes Hatter, she’s alive. For now." I glanced between them, panicked. No. I couldn’t lose her, not again. I couldn’t go through that pain. I strained my hand against the bindings but they didn’t budge. Damn.

 

"Tell me where the ring is Hatter," he said softly, the malice in his eyes giving him away.

 

"I can’t." I said, truthfully.

 

"Of course you can."

 

"No I can’t." 

 

"Why not?" he growled,

 

"’Cause I don’t know where it is." I said this with a cheer I didn't feel, almost in a sing-song voice. It probably wasn't wise to mock my captor but I was still high on relief.

 

"Oh dear." He said in a way that clearly suggested that he’d been hoping for a reply like that. My eyes darted around, assessing possible dangers. They lingered on the gun but quickly dismissed it. Dodo wanted the ring and Alice was the only person who could tell him where it was. He needed her alive.

 

Me on the other hand... I was disposable. Self preservation kicked in, of a sort, if I died now I couldn’t help Alice. I needed to help her. I wouldn’t be responsible for her death again.

 

Dodo snapped his fingers and a guard walked in with a cattle prod; then, while I watched in horror he jabbed it unmercifully into Alice’s side until she screamed herself awake.

I yelled her name pointlessly as she screamed and writhed in her chair, unable to move more than an inch or so in any direction and screaming with such agony that I almost wanted to cover my ears. I strained as much as I could against my restraints, the metal cutting into my wrist.

"STOP IT!" I begged Dodo, "please."

Dodo looked very pleased indeed and snapped his fingers again. The cattle prod withdrew and Alice’s screams faded into small sobs that were poorly disguised as deep breaths. I don’t think she knew where she was. She just looked down, tears dripping onto her dress from eyes squeezed shut. Her dark hair fell tangled and lank over her shoulders, hiding her face. She was placed closer to me than she was to Dodo, so when she spoke, it was so quietly that only I could hear and the words that she spoke were so full of sorrow that my heart broke.

 

"I’m sorry Hatter," she sobbed "I’m so sorry, I let you down." She dissolved into fresh tears. Dodo was waited, watching her curiously, fake pity on his face but his eyes betrayed his amusement and I hated him for it. He couldn’t hear what we were saying but I don’t think he cared. He had a plan.

 

"Alice," I said softly.

 

Her head came up immediately, her eyes full of hope and pain and when she saw me her face broke into a joyous smile, so unsuited to this place, so unlike her, but there it was. Pure joy. Then she grimaced as she shifted and the moment was gone.

 

"Hatter," she breathed. "I thought you were dead."

 

"-so did I" I said, "they dragged me away as you were lying there …" I trailed off. She understood and reached out her left hand, she was just close enough to touch my right but I couldn’t move it to hold on to her so I reached my left over and laced my fingers with hers.

As far as she was concerned, it was physical comfort, feeling that she wasn’t alone in this dreadful place. But for me it was so much more than that; it was proof that she cared, really and truly cared if I died and not just because she had no one else in this world.

The thought made me so happy I thought I would levitate, but an intrusive cough brought me crashing back to Wonderland.

Alice looked around, eyes wide and fearful as if she too had just had her happy little bubble rudely popped.

When she caught sight of Dodo her eyes narrowed and her lips pressed together. Mmy hand tightened on hers and she clenched her jaw, forcing herself to stay calm.

 

"How touching" said Dodo, voice dripping with sarcasm "so touching in fact, I’m feeling rather playful," he touched the gun, gauging our reactions. My eyes went to Alice and hers went to me. It was so instant and awkward that I almost grinned. Almost.

 

Dodo took this in and smirked. It obviously added a little something to whatever his sick game was.

 

"How about a few rounds of Wonderland Roulette?"

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

 

"No." I said, staring at Dodo in horror, "no!"

 

"Yes, methinks," he smirked.

 

Alice was looking from me to Dodo; she was obviously trying to keep her composure but she had no idea what either of us were on about and she definitely didn't like my reaction to it.

 

"What?" she said, frustrated, when Dodo didn't answer her immediately she turned to me, "Hatter what is it?" she implored.

 

I sighed, better for her to know what was going to happen than try and protect her feelings now

"Alice, you have it in your world. It involves a revolver and … in our case, two bullets?" I glanced at Dodo to confirm.

 

"Precisely." Dodo beamed, "one for each of you. I’ve never lost, but I’ll give you a shot… so to speak." He winked boyishly.

 

Alice shook her head back and forth, eyes full of fear,

"Russian roulette. Oh no, no, no." she whispered, "Hatter!"

I squeezed her hand.

 

"Yes! Your little Oyster seems to have grasped it." Dodo said cheerfully, "this means only one of us will survive." he didn’t look at all perturbed at the fact that it might not be him.

It was practically impossible to cheat at Wonderland Roulette but it had been done; and I didn’t put it past Dodo to know at least some of the tricks. I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him, and because of his impressive bulk I’d probably just drop him (if I could pick him up at all) and beat the Bandersnatch out of him.

 

"If you don’t want to play little Oyster, then tell me where you hid the stone of Wonderland." he said, in the patronising way only a psychopath or a high school teacher could get away with. "I give you my word that you'll be spared if you tell me."

 

Alice pressed her lips tightly together and looked tortured.

 

"Don’t you understand, girl? Justice will only be restored to this godforsaken place when the current queen is out of her throne!"

 

"What about Hatter?"

Dodo stopped his lecture on the ‘good old days’ and looked momentarily confused,

 

"What about him?" he asked, not looking at me. I shifted restlessly, I’d bet my hat that the next sentence from her mouth would be…

 

"Will you set him free too?"

BAM. I keep my hat; but I rolled my eyes all the same.

 

"Alice," I hissed, low enough so that Dodo couldn’t hear, "don't do this."

Dodo didn’t hate Alice, too much, and she was no threat to him so letting her go was no big deal. But me? Dodo had always loathed me. He only kept me around because I was useful and knew too much. I think he was happy now he had an excuse to blow my brains out for real. And he wasn't going to give that up.

 

"Shut up," she said.

 

"Forget about me Alice, he won’t kill you. He can’t. You’re the only one who knows where it is! I was dead the moment I got here but you still have a chance." she pulled her hand away from mine, too angry to need comfort. Dodo merely looked baffled and amused 

"If he can't kill me I have nothing to worry about. Look, I get you released first, you get out of here, he releases me and I kick his ass and run! Simple."

 

"There are things worse than death Alice," I said stonily, ‘and you can bet that Dodo knows them all.’ That’s beside the point anyway, even if the first part of her ‘plan’ works and he lets me go, no way am I leaving Alice to fend for herself. "Besides, he’s not an idiot, despite his similarities to a Borrogrove."

Alice rolled her eyes and turned away from me. But it wasn’t anger circulating in her eyes. It was fear, and defeat. She knew the plan was Griffin plop but she still wanted to try anything.

Anything other than Wonderland Roulette.

 

For those who played willingly, it was addictive; I’ve heard them in my Tea shop, talking about the pointlessness of life, the mingling thrill and fear of pointing a gun to your own head, the relief and disappointment of the empty click and the satisfaction of taking all the losers’ possessions.

Those people weren’t regulars.

 

But we weren’t here willingly and the stakes were too high.

I couldn’t lose Alice. Wonderland needed her. I needed her.

 

Knowing Dodo, he had fixed the game so that I'd die first. If Alice still wouldn’t talk then he’d torture her. 

He would kill her eventually; probably calling all his contacts to search the whole of Wonderland for the stone, which almost made me grateful for the alternative, but all the same, if I had had the choice I would rather me than her.

  

Dormie would have a heart attack if he heard that thought. I can’t say I’d ever thought it before and I’m surprised that I did, but it doesn’t change the fact that I would.

 

And I don’t know why.

 

Dodo sighed, "I suppose so." he said reluctantly.

Alice shook her head "'Suppose’ isn’t good enough."

 

"Fine," he spat, "I promise."

 

She relaxed slightly

"Good."

 

I doubted very much that Dodo was done with his tormenting yet. This could be a sign that he didn’t want to risk his own or Alice’s life (the only useful ones). Or it could just be his sadistic side coming out. I briefly wondered if he’d ever met the Tweedle twins.

 

Being right all the time could be such a burden.

"So … where is it Alice?"

 

She tensed again, "I’m not going to tell you until you let us go,"

 

"Oh no, I can’t have that." His voice was slick like he’d just downed a bottle of flamingo oil. "I know for a fact that if I let you go then you’ll try and run. You understand the position I'm in."

 

"If I tell you then you won’t let us go." Alice shot back

Dodo nodded once, lower lip jutting out.

 

"True. True. So it appears we have a stalemate."

 

Alice bit her lip. Waiting.

 

I shifted my gaze between them. Something had to happen in order for one of these demands to be adhered to. And I just had a feeling…

 

"Let Hatter go first."

 

BAM. Again. I can double keep my hat.

 

"Alice!" I moaned, "don't be an idiot." Although if he actually did what she said then he’d have to free my right fist… maybe her idea wasn’t all bad.

 

Unfortunately, Dodo had the same idea. Eyeing my restrained hand warily he shook his head. Extra unfortunately, his sunken eyes lit up. He had an idea.

 

"Shall we see how well you work under pressure my dear?" he asked, snapping his fingers once more.  

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

 

Pain.

 

Pain was all I could feel.

 

Pain and fear.

 

I could hear screaming, someone was screaming, my name; Hatter.

 

Figures swam in my vision. Dodo with a vindictive smile on his fat face. Alice straining in her chair towards me, her mouth moving somewhat disjointedly to the words I heard. A look of torture and guilt on her tear stained face.

 

I could taste blood as I bit the inside of my cheek in a vain attempt to keep my screams inside.

 

I could smell the burning of my flesh as it seared off my body.

 

I felt the insanely high voltage of electricity coursing through me and through the pain filled haze I was conscious that if the cattle prod wielding maniac didn’t stop soon then I would pass out or die. I wasn't sure which I would have preferred in that moment.

Even as the thought clanged around in my head the cattle prod was removed and I slumped forwards,  body twitching with the receding electricity, breathing heavily. The air felt reluctant to fill my lungs, making me cough and gasp as pain shot through my chest.

As my senses slowly returned I swallowed. My mouth was dry; my fear for Alice and myself was paramount.

Someone yanked my head backwards by my hair and my hat was placed back on it. I met Alice’s eyes. She looked at me with those huge brown orbs and I felt something contract in my chest. She looked so scared; all I wanted to do was grab her hand and tell her that it would all be okay. But the truth was, I didn’t think it would be.

 

I was in way over my head. Never in my life had I been in a situation like this. I’d been in danger more times than I cared to count, but never, ever had someone I cared about been threatened as well. I'd never cared about anyone enough to have them threatened. Alice was valuable and not just to me.

Another tear escaped from her eye and slid down her cheek as she stared at me. She mouthed my name again and that hardened my resolve. I will get her out of here, I promised myself. No matter what, she will see her mother again.

 

Dodo decided at that moment to resume his one sided banter.

"You know Hatter," he began, standing up and walking over to my chair. He placed a hand on each of my shoulders and leaned down to murmur into my ear, "you could have been useful. You proved yourself loyal to the cause and unafraid of danger. A hatred of the Queen and the Tea that keeps this miserable country ticking and you had sealed a promising future with us You had the chance to really do something. And then…" he gestured to Alice with mock woe and gripped my shoulder tighter, ‘you met a pretty girl in a blue dress and decided to betray us. You let the Stone of Wonderland, the thing that we have been trying to get a hold of for years, get away from us, just because she said ‘no’, and I want to know why?" His fingers were biting into my shoulder now, Time to think Hatter.

"I thought it would be safer in her world." I said, a plausible idea forming, "If the stone was hidden in Wonderland then sooner or later it would be found and find itself back in the hands of the Queen. But-" I was gasping with pain now, surely he was drawing blood? "If Alice took the ring back to her world then the looking glass would stop working soon enough and then the Queen could never get hold of it."

Dodo squeezed my shoulder again before letting go.

"A fine idea my slippery friend; but you're forgetting about the Oysters in the casino already. Would you leave them to be drained? I’m sure your little pet, wouldn’t be happy about that." he spat the word pet and I met Alice’s eyes. They were wide and scared, but there was hurt in there too, and a little anger. I mouthed trust me and she hesitated and looked away. "Not to mention the fact that you just left the casino. A little worse for the wear I notice; what was the plan then Hatter?"

I froze for a moment, a fraction of a breath, "we were … err … trying to free them. We were going to send them and Alice back through."

"Without the ring in her possession?" he asked, faking his incredulity, "it certainly isn’t. Be sure that we searched her very … thoroughly."

I jerked my head up sharply at the implication, Dodo was still behind me and Alice was still looking at the table, but she must know I would look at her, look for any indication that Dodo was lying. He wouldn’t have, surely? That was too far, even for him. Almost imperceptibly, Alice shook her head. I breathed again.

Then I answered Dodo, scoffing, "It wouldn't have been very smart of us to take the stone into the casino would it? She said she hid it somewhere. Somewhere we could get to easily after escaping the casino."

"Well that was a good idea, would have been excellent with back up. Did you really think that two of you could just stroll into the Hearts' casino and free all of the Oysters? Foolish yes, but a very good idea just the same. You should have stayed friends Hatter. Our contacts could have helped you. I’ll make you a deal. Whoever out of you two survives our little game, will help put the plan into action. We will free the Oysters without you certainly, but the little matter of hiding the ring where it won’t be found. The looking glass works for a short time without the ring, so Hatter, if you survive then you might just be able to come home. If you want to of course, we wouldn’t miss you." He started walking away, back to his place at the table.

I almost stopped breathing. A way out? A deal with Dodo? It was risky, but did I have a choice? A better option? In a word, no. Besides, Dodo relished making deals, he lived for them and so he tended to keep them.

Alice and I exchanged a heavy look; there was a way out for one of us. I just had to make sure that it was her.

We both nodded at the same time that Dodo sat back down on his chair.

 

Dodo’s grin widened.

"Let’s play"

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

 

Click

 

Click

 

Click

 

The first round had no casualties. It almost would have been easier if there had been six of them; that way it definitely would have been one of us. Three halved the risk but doubled the suspense. Dodo seemed to sense this, although he had a wide smile on his face, there was a flicker of fear in his eyes as he re-wound the bullets and placed the barrel to his temple. I frowned. Maybe he wasn't so sure of his method of fixing the game. But if he wasn't sure, would he go through with it?

 

Click

 

Dodo let out a breath and motioned for three more of his men to join him at the table. They did so, two of them rather reluctantly, one was between Dodo and me, another next to him, me and Alice were separated by the last, much to my chagrin and Alice’s panic. Our hands were forcibly separated which made me growl, but I shot as reassuring a look as I could at her. She nodded, jaw setting. I was proud.

 

"Tell me where the ring is." Dodo repeated calmly, his fear gone as he passed the gun to the next man.

 

Click

 

"No," said Alice, "let us go first."

"No" Mimicked Dodo, smile as wide as the Cheshire cat.

 

BANG!

 

We all jumped, Alice screamed, gore splattered everywhere as the woman sitting next to me slumped to the floor, the gun falling from her limp hand. Where her head had been was a bloodied mess. We all looked at the body, shocked. Even Dodo looked taken aback. Two more men came to cart it away but they did nothing for the blood, which trailed sluggishly into the cracks in the tiled floor and pooled around my shoes. 

There was no way to stop that from becoming her.

 

"Tell me where the ring is." Dodo said again, as one of the guards on the wall placed another bullet in the still smoking gun, spun it, and put it on the table in front of me, "and this can all stop."

Alice hesitated and I could see the conflict within her. What use was the ring to her really? Dodo would let us go and let her go home if she gave it to him. His cause was a sound one. The right move for Wonderland to shake off it's oppression. But to relinquish that power to a man like this... She glanced back at the empty chair where the corpse that had been a woman just seconds before had been. Something shifted in her eyes and they hardened as they met mine. Determined, strong, fierce. This game just became real and Alice was playing to win. She pressed her lips together and shook her head.

"What happens if I refuse to shoot?" I said warily, keeping it hypothetical, I was stalling. I didn't want to pick up that gun again. It had blood on it now, slowly seeping onto the table in front of me like a raw steak.

"Then you die by other means." Dodo shrugged, gesturing to the stony faced men around the room, who barely blinked at dragging their comrade’s body away.

I paused for a second longer, then picked up the gun in my left hand.

"Why are you doing this anyway?" I asked the older man bitterly, "we were on the same side. We believed in the same cause, and now you’d have me kill myself." I looked around, "hardly seems fair."

"Life isn’t fair Hatter." Dodo said, "It isn’t whether you believe you were doing the right thing or not, this is simply because you had the audacity to challenge me and my authority."

"Then you’re just like the Queen." I spat. 

So what? A little voice whispered against my own logic. Is he going to force people to be free? Because that’s what he’s fighting for.

I argued back with myself, proving that I had been in Wonderland too long. Dodo wasn’t going to stop with freedom; his hatred for anyone who was even associated with the Queen of Hearts was too great. Most of the people who worked for her had no choice, not all of them had to believe what she did. What would Dodo do to them? Would he have the majority of Wonderland killed just for going along with what their insane Monarch was doing? Just for being too scared to rebel and join the Resistance?

I raised the gun to my head, and pulled the trigger.

 

Click

 

The man next to me snatched the gun to get it over with.

 

Click

 

"You’ve been underground too long Dodo." Alice said sadly, "Hatter’s right, you are exactly like the Queen."

 

Dodo’s eyes narrowed "I am nothing like that… woman," he spat, his anger apparently too great and his imagination too small to come up with a good insult.

"Then why are you killing us and your own men for your amusement?" Alice insisted, her eyes meeting his and not letting go.

"Because you defied my authority!" he repeated as if Alice was slow. "I am the leader of this branch of the Resistance, and I’ll be damned if all my hard work is wasted by you gobs of pond life!"

"Authority? Like she has? Like she abuses? Why not just have us shot? I mean, I know you want the ring, but you don’t have to play with us like she would."

Dodo made a noise in the back of his throat . . . as if he wanted to strangle something.

"And what are you going to do if you win Dodo?" Alice continued, "Have the Queen and all of the suits executed I suppose. what about those who take Tea? Wouldn’t it be simpler to kill all of them too? Just to ensure that your authority is never challenged by some junkies out of the Tea shop. And what about the people just trying to make a living in this world? Those trying to stay out of the firing line? They're not part of the Resistance so what if they don't like having you as their new authority?"

Dodo leered, spittle flying from his mouth as he spoke. "They won't have a choice."

Alice looked disgusted.

"Listen to yourself Dodo. If you took over, the only thing that would change is who is at the bottom. The Hearts and the Resistance. What's the difference to the people of Wonderland?"

Alice took the gun in her hand and fired.

 

Click

 

I breathed again.

 

Click

 

Click

 

Click

 

BANG!

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

The man that separated me and Alice toppled backwards in his chair with the force of the bullet. Our eyes met over his body. There was no way out of this. Not until one of us was dead. I wished with all my heart that it would be Dodo, for doing this to Alice, and by extension, me. Alice was my responsibility. Ratty had brought her to me and I had taken it upon myself to keep her safe. It wasn’t my fault that she had ended up saving me too.

I bowed my head in defeat. What kind of a sorry excuse for a Wonderlander was I?

As Alice took her (thankfully) empty shot, a little kernel of something niggled in my brain. I was a Wonderlander. I knew more about the ways of my world than Dodo did, who lived inside and had never had to run from the Queen's guards. As a kid, I had constantly experimented with the fluctuating land for a quick and unpredictable get away. As I grew older and built my Tea shop from the ground up, I started to forget those tricks. I built myself a life and a ‘respectable’ business and I didn’t need to run anymore. Maybe I could use some of those tricks to help us now. I moved my foot in a clockwise motion on the floor; picturing Charlie's camp in my mind, the only safe place in Wonderland.

Click

Click

The gun slid over to me. I picked it up and considered it carefully, then I scrutinised Dodo; or more specifically, the screen in front of Dodo that stopped us from taking the gun and emptying it into his smug face.

Wonderland was a place made from flaws. Flaws in logic, flaws in reason. Every glass was chipped, every roof was missing a tile. And every bullet-deflecting screen had a weak spot. Dodo shifted uneasily at my scrutiny. I raised the gun to my head and he settled. I then glanced at Alice; she met my eyes, confused. Trust me I tried to convey. Then in one fluid, lightning fast motion I twisted the gun and fired. The bullet passed through the screen, through the chink that seemed to be made from water, small enough not to be noticed by the untrained eye, just big enough to allow the bullet to bite into Dodo's shoulder. Alice screamed and Dodo yelled in pain, his hand automatically going to the source to stem the blood flow. I then reached with my left hand and pulled a small golden key from under my shoe. When my hand was free I was out of my chair and at Alice's. I had freed Alice and grabbed her by the time anyone reacted, pushing her towards the door. The chains rattled as they hit the floor. The remaining resistance members around the room were in a panic, some rushed over to Dodo, proffering medical assistance; others drew their guns uncertainly. But these were just kids, people I had once considered friends and they were more reluctant to hurt me themselves than to watch me killed. One visibly swallowed and started to fire, two quick shots, but sloppy and way off target, a few more followed his lead.

“Alice!” I yelled, “RUN!” even if they were missing now, the more people shooting meant the more likely we were to get hit. For once, Alice didn't hesitate or ask questions, she ran, ducking down to avoid the bullets ricocheting from screen and wall and pulled open the door with me hot on her heels.

“Where are we going?” Alice panted as we rounded the third corner; she was bent double with her hands on her thighs, but she stared at me. Allowing me to lead.

“I'll know it when I find it,” I replied, equally out of breath. Alice straightened up.

“That's your plan?”

“You don't know Wonderland.” I told her.

Shouts sounded from back the way we had come. I grabbed Alice by the shoulders and pulled her out of sight, pressing her hard against the wall, she let out an exclamation of annoyance but as I leaned forward further, another emotion flashed in the depths of Alice's eyes. I grinned, my lips were inches from hers… I reached behind her and felt a handle.

“There's a door behind you,” I said quietly, conscious of the footsteps thundering down the corridor.

“What? No there’s…” her eyes widened as she too felt the wood that had been stone.

“It'll take you to Charlie's camp, you'll be safe there.” the shouts were getting louder, closer, echoing strangely off the stone walls. I glanced nervously over my shoulder but Alice wasn't moving.

“You?” she said. Something shifted in her face. “What happened to 'we'?” I looked back at her, my face grim.

“It's a door for one.” Alice shook her head, denying the reality with logic. I had to push down a smile. So stubborn.

“So, you come after me, right? It's just a door… any number of people can go through a door.” I just looked at her, drinking in her appearance, her bottomless eyes, her porcelain skin, her smooth, dark hair and that little blue dress. I placed a hand on her cheek.

“You don't know Wonderland.” I said again. I was lying; it was a door that would only last for a short time, but now I was regretting it. A door for two would have been much better, because they closed as soon as you both were through but I didn’t have time to try again. If the Resistance found this door before it closed, then they would have found Alice, and I would rather die than let her be hurt again.

“Then what about you?” she knew that there wasn't time to discuss the alien concept of picky, appearing doors. I shrugged, seeming nonchalant

'I'll hold them off for as long as I can.” I paused for a split second. “Then I'll join you.”

Her face fell, there was betrayal there and even though that stung, I understood. I was leaving her, just like her father had left her when she was ten, like her mother had left her all alone when she needed her, like Jack had left her and like Charlie had left us both. I was her one constant in this world and now I was leaving her too.

“No.” There was that beautiful stubbornness.

“No?” now was not the time for her to have another 'idea'. I could hear the resistance, they were perhaps around the corner, debating which way to go.

“Promise me you'll come for me.” I groaned and looked behind me again, they were out of earshot, but still too close. I saw the tows of boots.

“Alice, we don't have time.”

Promise me!” Her voice carried, the Resistance stopped; then started again in our direction. I swore, torn. I stared into Alice's eyes for what was likely to be the last time.

“You know I can't.”

A tear fell and I couldn't bear it, so I followed the mantra that guided my life. What the hell.

I smashed my lips to hers roughly, there was no time for the sweet, slow luxury I had imagined, our mouths moved together in perfect sync. This kiss was passion and fire, like Alice.

Three heartbeats of bliss, then I forced myself away and pushed her through the door, catching a glimpse of Charlie's surprise and Alice's despair, the latter of which tore at my heart before I shut the door on the woman I loved.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8 ~ Alice’s POV

"Promise me!" I cried. I hadn’t realised how loud I was until Hatter swore and looked at me like he would never see me again. He couldn’t make me do this; he couldn’t make me leave him. I didn’t care that it was for my own good, I needed him. He was the only even reasonably sane thing in this world. He knew Wonderland like no one else seemed to. He could take a random path and end up exactly where he wanted to go. He could create doors with people limits and keys and shoot through bulletproof shields and he could argue with me and win. He was my voice of reason I never liked to admit I needed. He could talk me out of stupid ideas and talk me into even stupider ones. He had to come back for me. I’d never find my way home without him. His liquid brown eyes were soft and worried. But they understood.

"You know I can’t."

 

I did know, and I hated knowing. He would never break a promise. I trusted him to know that he would never break a promise. So he wouldn't make this one.

I trusted him. I trusted him more than I had trusted anyone since my dad left. Wary of men, wary of dependence I had grown up without friends. I trusted my mother. That was it. And I had trusted Jack but he let me down. Now I trusted Hatter. It had taken me so long but I did. I trusted him fiercely, with my life, my pride… my heart.

And then he was kissing me and I was kissing him back, it was fast and rough and spontaneous and it was so Hatter that I just couldn’t stop. I couldn’t bring myself to remember that this had to end, that we were playing with borrowed time. That there was a door behind us that only one could go through.

After only a few seconds Hatter drew back and pushed me through the door, I tried to cry out to him, I caught the look of hopelessness as the door closed. And then Charlie’s arms were restraining me and I was screaming, struggling and sobbing, without purpose, without hope, without end.

My knees gave way and I cried my heart out into Charlie’s shoulder.

 

Hatter’s POV

 

I had to get away from here. The door had to remain unnoticed. I could follow her. I could wait until the last second, then follow her through. But the voices were too close, it would be discovered and she would be killed.

It was only that thought that could have made me turn away.

 

I ran. Across the hallway so the men would see me

"There they are!" one of them called. I didn’t stop. I didn’t look back. Trusting that they would follow me. 

"Run Alice!" I yelled to the empty corridor ahead. Footsteps; fast, too fast gaining on me. I put on an extra burst of speed, muscles straining, chest pounding, I kept running blindly. I had to get further away. I had to keep them away from Alice. When we were far enough away I’d be caught. I would run until I ran out of anywhere to run to. I took a sharp right, then a left. The door would be closing soon; I could see the timer in my head, ten seconds, nine seconds, eight seconds. 

If I can I promised myself. I will get out of this. As willing as I was to sacrifice myself for Alice. It was not to the point of stupidity. Once she was safe I could work on a new plan. I'd probably be dead before I could actually see it through but hey, I'm an optimist.

Three, two, one

Yes!

 

I still didn’t stop; left, left, right, left, middle fork, right, left; it was a maze of stark corridors. I could still hear the footsteps behind me but they were further away now that I was actually trying to throw them off. Eventually they grew fainter but that didn't mean much. I knew these men, how they’d act. They still had guns, and they’d use them. Right on cue the first bullet zipped past my left ear. I still didn’t look back, trying not to think about the fact that my bullet proof jacket had been removed or that my right fist was my only weapon, or that I was outnumbered five to one. I just kept running; my lungs were on fire and I could barely breathe but I wasn’t far enough away. I needed a wider margin. A door for one would take time that I didn’t have. I was completely lost in this underground building. I knew the Great Library well, but this must be at least three floors below. And I didn’t have the time to look for the stairs. Another shot narrowly missed my shoulder as I turned another corner... into a dead end. I swore under my breath. A door for one would take too long, but a door that would last for just a few moments, that I might be able to do. I turned to the wall and tapped in various spots, testing out its pressure points. I didn’t have time to be perfect. A misshapen door materialised, just as the other men rounded the corner, guns at the ready. It took maybe a four seconds for the door to open, for the men to adjust to what they were seeing, for one of them to aim and fire, and for me to stumble backwards through to Charlie’s camp, and to Alice.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

 

Hatter's POV

I saw Alice spin around when I turned to face her, saw her smile, watched as that smile turned from dazzling to horrified. I didn’t understand. I was here, wasn’t she happy? She was running towards me, yelling something I couldn’t quite hear. Everything was fuzzy. That was strange. I pressed my hand to my stomach in a sudden shock of pain; it came away bloody. I didn’t realise I was falling until I hit the ground with Alice kneeling over me. My thoughts catching up at a snails pace.

"Hatter, please don’t do this, you can’t!" Alice was crying.

Charlie was running around doing Wonderland knows what, amusingly useless as always.

"It’s okay, Alice. You’re safe now." It hurt to talk but she needed to know. Charlie could help her get back to her world, she’d be fine. That was all that mattered.

 

Her tears were falling hot on my face; she pulled me onto her lap and stroked my hair with one hand while pushing on my stomach with the other. It hurt, but I didn’t complain. I knew that she was trying to staunch the blood flow. Whether it would work or not… judging by Alice's face I doubted it. Black spots spiked in my vision. Alice's face blurred. I tried to shake my head but it was so heavy.

"No!" she cried, "Don’t leave me."

"I’ll try." I croaked. And I would, not that my trying would make a difference; I may know Wonderland but death is a realm over which I have no power. "For you, I’ll try. I love you, Alice." I couldn’t leave her not knowing that.

Alice nodded, tears still streaming from her eyes. Her dark hair hung over both out faces, as if shielding us from the rest of the world. She bent her head and touched her lips to mine. This kiss was soft and gentle. She didn’t speak, she didn’t need to. I knew what that kiss meant.

It was a goodbye kiss.

 

Alice’s POV

 

I watched him slip into unconsciousness. His chest was barely moving now and time seemed to have slowed. The blood still pulsed beneath my fingers but only just. Charlie bumbled over with a bandage and what looked like a long pair of tweezers made out of those Borrogrove ribs we had the other day.

"I need to get the bullet out," he said matter of factly, sticking the tweezers into the hole in Hatter’s stomach. I blanched and looked away. I'd never really liked blood; I’d never been able to watch CSI or anything like that but at least I managed to keep myself from vomiting. I placed his hat on the ground next to him and began to stroke his wild hair. I don’t know why. I hoped it might get through to him somehow. Maybe he would be comforted by it. Maybe he would be strengthened by it. It made me feel better at any rate. Charlie gathered some springy moss from the trees and packed it tightly into the wound. I let him do his thing. I couldn’t tell if he was helping or not but it's not as though he could make things worse. I just stroked Hatter's hair, drained. I had no expertise in wounds or Wonderland. But I did have faith in Hatter. Eventually Charlie finished, found a vine, flattened it and wrapped it around Hatter like a bandage. Then he came and stood at my side, admiring his handiwork and flicking his hands to get rid of excess dirt.

"Special moss that," he said, pointing as if I didn’t know to which particular moss he was referring, "useful. It’s lucky I raised a new batch just in case."

I just shook my head. I still hadn’t gotten over the weirdness of Wonderland, but if it could change this rapidly deteriorating situation then I would embrace it whole-heartedly.

"Is he going to be alright?" That was all I wanted to know. I said it softly, confidently, as though I knew he would be. As though I trusted in this place to take care of him. Intention seemed to matter here. I tore my gaze away from the unconscious man in my lap to the elderly knight above me. Charlie smiled kindly down at me.

"I should think so," he said patting my head, I tried not to wince as I could feel my hair cloying up with dirt and moss. "Wonderland likes him, which is rare these days and he remembers how to use it, which is rarer still. I think the Wonderlander in him will use the moss and the bandage to help him heal. It shouldn’t take too long." He wandered away cheerfully, humming the same tune as always.

"Thank you," I called after him but he didn’t seem to hear me. I smiled though my face cracked with dried tears and turned back to Hatter, "and you," I whispered, "we never would have gotten out of there if it hadn’t been for you." I leaned forward and kissed him as before, just a small one. The effect was instantaneous, the vine tightened around his stomach and began to glow white, an orange circle bright over where the wound was. Charlie hurried over at my cry of alarm but his face broke into a smile.

"It’s happening," he breathed excitedly, "the land is healing him! This hasn’t happened in years!"

Acting on a hunch I placed Hatter's hat back on his head and moved out from under him, still on my knees. I watched amazed as the light began to dim and the flattened vine fell away. The wound was gone, completely healed. There wasn’t even a scar!

"But the moss!" I realized, "the moss is still inside him!"

"The moss just filled the gap." Charlie waved away my astonishment. "It turned back into … well, whatever was missing from his body." Charlie leaned over Hatter so that they were almost nose to nose, eyes wide, and waited. I waited too, what on earth was he doing now?

 

Hatter’s POV

 

A heat on my stomach and I knew I was back. I felt just as I had before, better even. I had no idea what had happened but I was in Wonderland. Almost unsurprised. I opened my eyes groggily and flinched as too-close eyes stared back at me.

"Hah!" the too-close mouth said, splitting into a wide grin and the too-close mustache and goatee quivered. Then the too-close face wasn’t too close anymore and Charlie had turned away, singing his normal song merrily as if he hadn’t a care in the world. I was barely given a second to process this or even to roll my eyes when I heard a shout,

"Hatter!" My vision was obscured by something dark and soft, a pleasant weight on my chest. I sniffed the hair.

"Alice" I breathed, she smelled like moonlight and snufflegrass. I sat up, a difficult feat with arms around my neck. My hat fell off as my arms encased her, hugging her as if I had died and just come back… which, to be fair had happened. She pulled back from my shoulder and smiled at me and suddenly, everything was right with the world. There were tears of joy in her eyes as I bent slightly to bring our lips together. I moaned into her mouth at the kiss and she grabbed my hair in her fists, pulling me closer. This kiss was all fire and fear and passion, full of what we had almost lost and everything that we had gained. In that moment, I didn’t care about Alice going back home, I didn’t care that the Queen was still on her throne, I didn’t care that Charlie was gaping at us from a few feet away because Alice was here and she was kissing me. We pulled back and Alice giggled at Charlie’s clumsy attempt at acting like he hadn’t just been watching us. I smiled too and knew that I would follow this girl wherever she went. Even if that meant leaving Wonderland. Because Alice was my home now.