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Fic for Syfy's Alice, of the Alice/Hatter persuasion. More Hatter than anything else.

Title: Cliched
Author: FiliaUmbrae
Genre: Gen/Romance of the vague sort
Rating: PG13
Summary: Hatter's trying to figure out what just happened, retrospectively.
Disclaimer: Don't own, etc. etc.
Warnings: Slightly AU version of events before Alice goes home.

Hatter had learned a lot of things in his lifetime. Many of those lessons were comprised of cliches such as, “Always expect the unexpected,”or “You can't have your cake and eat it too,” that nevertheless rang quite true. In Wonderland, cliches had a habit of doing just that. The phenomenon was one that he was used to, but it still managed to throw the wary Hatter for a loop now and again.

When his eyes came to rest on Jack and Alice and their embrace, there was a clamoring in his skull as all those old adages came rushing back to him, flooding his brain and drowning out everything else. Until, that is, she let go and turned. Her eyes shone like blue diamonds, no, wait, sapphires! Her countenance was radiant, her voice, as she called his name; divine. Hatter had to shake himself, disgusted at the mindless soppy rubbish his errant brain was attempting to force-feed his mouth. He may have had to firmly close his jaw, lest it hang open and unguarded, allowing flies free reign, rent free.

She flew—walked, he corrected, to him, her eyes and lips smiling. Their conversation was stilted and awkward. For every three words they spoke, he could hear another ten circling the air around and about their heads like little linguistic vultures. In retrospect, it was a blur. He could remember bits and pieces of what he said. Something that sounded a lot like, “Oh good, I'm glad!” or "Hell no!" in a voice that cracked like his bits had just descended again, tinged with a healthy side dose of petulance. It was sure to wow her (later, he thought that he might have to go back and kill himself slowly). He did remember one thing though, her smile and her lips as she responded to what could have only been his half squeaked request of “Pizza?”

“Pizza,” she'd affirmed. “And other things.” He liked to recall her voice as smoky, her eyes and piercing and pinning him. It was probably just hindsight, and a fierce bout of wishful remembrance, but that line and those lips haunted him for weeks. He was irrationally terrified that if someone mentioned “pizza” around him, he'd have to go and excuse himself, lest there be awkward questions asked about why his wanger was suddenly just as interested in the conversation at hand.

Hatter was still a little surprised when Jack called her name, and she turned (he was pretty sure that it was reluctantly, but then again, he was also in grievous danger of getting embarrassing erections from pizza, so he wasn't feeling all that charitable towards his memory) to go. Her eyes begged him, but his tongue stuck in his mouth. It wasn't often a problem that he had. If there was one thing that Hatter was pretty confident in, it was his ability to talk his way out of a situation. He had what his mother used to call a “glib tongue,” which he'd seen get him into and out of trouble in almost equal measures, especially where women were concerned.

But still she left, hurried quite quickly through the Looking Glass, and out of his life, and Hatter couldn't think of a damned thing to say to have made her stay. It wasn't like he had much, he mused to himself. Rakish charm and good looks, a somewhat criminal background, only slightly tarnished and dented heart of gold (well, maybe silver)...against tall and blond and probably dashing and, if you squinted and turned your head round and about, Hatter supposed you could call Jack handsome, oh yes, and of course, King. Hard to beat that one, he imagined.

Jack had come over to him not long after that, looking even more royal, kind of like he had begun to gather power and monarchy around himself as if it were an oversized ermine cloak. Hatter found himself with newly resurgent authority issues.

“So she comin' back, then?” He tried nonchalance, indifference, and statement of fact all rolled into one. The result had Jack smirking at him.

“Good god you're transparent, you know that?” Hatter felt his spine stiffen in the most literal sense, and was absurdly glad that he didn't actually possess hackles like his Great Aunt Gingersnap (his parents said that it had been the result of a tea accident gone horribly wrong, but Hatter thought rather uncharitably that she'd been the result of some questionable breeding practices and a Cheshire cat).

“Dunno what you're on about, Jack.”

“King to you, now.” Hatter didn't bother looking up at Jack. The man was absurdly tall and already full up enough of himself. He didn't really care to see the smirk that he could tell was still lingering on the other man's face.

“'Course.” Hatter chanced a look up at Jack, even in his inner dialog he refuses to address the man by his new title, and if he's surprised to see the other man giving him what appears to be an in depth one-over, he manages to not say anything of a provoking nature. Out loud. Jack's next words send a jolt through Hatter.

“She's not coming back, you know.” It isn't even close to what he thought was going to be said. Not even within the realm of previously contemplated “Things Jack Might Say!” There were few times at which Hatter found himself well and truly speechless. Even in the most dire or awkward sets of circumstances, there was usually a quip or a remark stored somewhere in the depths of his brain. Instead all he could here was “not coming back” over and over again like a bad skipping music box of terror. Had he seriously lost his chance? Even if she were coming back to marry Jack, at least she would have been coming back.

Jack's face wasn't triumphant as he delivered the news, but his eyes were sharp as he took in the gaping fish-mouth reaction that Hatter had to his news. Alice's quiet but firm declaration had shaken him. Not really surprised him, but definitely shaken him. He could see it now like he couldn't when he walked into that clearing. Hatter, he was certain, had been taking advantage. For all of her physical strength, Alice was still fragile, something that Jack had picked up on the moment he had first tried cajoling her for a date. Hatter would have descended on that weakness, Jack had been so sure of it. But now...he watched Hatter's face, studied his reactions closely. He couldn't determine whether or not the scoundrel had changed, or if he simply had never really known Hatter at all. It would hardly be surprising, after all. While they were both part of the Resistance, he'd never held a very high opinion of the Tea seller. He played both sides of the fence a little too closely for Jack's taste, but then again, what did he know? Jack had watched a woman's heart break right before his very eyes, her trust and convictions shaken. Alice hadn't been kidding when she said that she'd changed, and Jack would never be sure how much of that was a result of him, and how much of it was because of the man standing before him, looking as though Jack had just killed his favorite momerath.

Hatter, for his part, was doing his damnedest, mind racing through as many of the old bits of advice he'd been given over the years. Stiff upper lip, check. Heart in hands, che—fuck. Jack was right, he was transparent. And he'd just stood by and let her leave. Well, maybe not let. If Alice had wanted to go, he wasn't sure that there was anyone here who could have stopped her. She was that determined, she was.

“She...likes you,” Jack muttered, the words nearly forcing themselves out. He had loved her, but he also had come to acknowledge his time had passed. Alice (plucky, strong, stubborn, fragile Alice) had moved on. Her voice and eyes were clear when her lips formed the “no.” If he really thought about it, which he didn't particularly want to do, but which his contrary brain seemed intent upon doing, she'd already moved on when he'd come across them in the clearly. Alice had been intent on Hatter in a way that he'd never seen her intent on anything else before, except maybe her karate classes. He'd never seen that look turned toward him, and she'd followed him into Wonderland because she “liked” him. Jack had said that she “likes” Hatter, but he knew somewhere deep down that “like” didn't begin to cover what she felt for him.

“She what, now?” Flummoxed might have accurately describe the look on Hatter's face.

“There's the slightest chance that she might like you,” the words came out in a jumble, and Jack swore that if he had to repeat them again, Hatter would come to deeply regret it.

“An' how is it you come across this choice piece of information? She tell you, did she?” he was skeptical, voice hard, even as he could feel his heart beating faster in his chest, hoping welling up, and springing forth, and all other manner of grossly inappropriately gleeful verbs. Kings didn't roll their eyes, but Jack's felt perilously close to spinning right around in their sockets.

“She didn't have to, you infuriating dolt.” It was an interesting equation, Hatter noted. As Jack grew more and more red in the face, Hatter felt better and better. “She turned me down. Again.” There was that persistent feeling of elation again, threatening to break out of his chest. Again. He liked the sound of that word.

“And this means what to me, then?” Hatter barely got the words out without a Cheshire grin.

“Oh for—I'm not going to spell it out for you, Hatter. It means exactly what you want it to mean.” He paused, and Hatter could almost swear he witnessed the internal conflict with in Jack. His next words were carefully measured and clipped. “The Looking Glass is going to be open for a while, you know. We can't send everyone through at once. Maybe a month or so. Do with that what you will.” Jack turned and walked away, as many muscles in his body clenched as he could and still manage motion. Even Hatter was impressed at the stiffness achieved.

Hatter gave one last look at the Looking Glass, at Jack directing the Suits and the Oysters alike, and he let himself smile. A month or so was doable. Time was fluid between the worlds, and that would give him just about enough time to bribe his contacts more skilled in the ways of Alice's world. They'd know what he needed and how he needed to get it. He walked away from the Mirror Room, a bounce in his step and a jaunty tune on his lips.

Platitudes and cliches often had their place, he mused. Good things come to those who wait sprang to mind (along with a few very detailed images of Alice, pizza, and other things), and Hatter was looking forward to seeing just how far he could push having his cake and eating it too (this was accompanied by several more pleasant images that might have put an extra spring into his step). He whistled a bit louder, and went to make his arrangements.


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August 2011

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