Title:Two Bricks Short and a Few Cards Shy

Chapter: (1/?)

Author: strangelittleswirl

Rating: T/PG-13

Characters: Hatter, Alice, Suits, Queen of Hearts, Carol Hamilton, DG, Cain, Glitch, Lavender Eyes, Azkadellia (so far)

Pairings: (eventual)

Words: 2225

Warnings: Slight language, innuendo, spoilers for both Tin Man and Alice, drug use

Disclaimer: I own nothing, only created Grislind. All the characters, places, and items discussed belong to their respective owners and creators.

Summary: In the aftermath of a fallen casino and an eclipse, two governments and their people try to move on, but old foes make new appearances.

"You're painting the roses red!" Alice cried, partially chiding and partially amused. The man on a ladder twisted, looked immediately to her face, and after apparently seeing that nothing was entirely remiss, moved his gaze down to the flora in question. The plastic flowers-they had been white when they had been produced, shipped to a store, bought by Jack Chase as d├ęcor for his own apartment, and then moved to the new apartment of the newest Wonderland immigrant-were now sporting large, glistening globs of red paint.

"Wasn't going to keep them anyway. What sort of man keeps flowers like that, I mean really," the Hatter muttered to himself as he scrutinized the section of wall that he had just painted.

Upon further inspection, Alice was impressed that Hatter had yet to get any paint on the furniture. She had not expected him to take the initiative to start painting the walls while she was at the store. But when did he ever do anything she expected?

"Hatter," she sighed, "I was buying tarps. I told you that. Why didn't you wait?"

There was an answering shrug, and then the Hatter dipped his brush back into the can of paint perched precariously on the bookshelf next to him, coming back up with far too much on his brush. "Couldn't see what some sort of animal had to do with me changing the color of my walls." There went drops of red onto the top of the roses once more, and the bedside table they sat on, And I can't have pets in here, I remember that much from the lease. Is it for dinner?"

Without waiting for an answer he was back to working again, singing quietly to himself and slopping paint onto the walls in a careless manner. Soon the bed, the nightstand, and a good section of the floor beneath him was marked with at least a droplet or two. They had all been Jack's and had all taken hours, several arguments, and at least seven stubbed toes to carry up two flights and into the new apartment.

Alice would have probably murdered him (or at least caused severe harm to his person) had it not been for the calming guidance of her mother who presided over the whole operation. After two days of trying to keep the secret of Hatter's identity from her mother, she decided that the only way she would stay sane and remain on good terms with her mother (who she had never kept a secret from before; theirs was a strange relationship) was to show her Wonderland herself.

And while initially shaken, Carol seemed to enjoy the new world. She had quickly volunteered the guest bedroom to the Hatter while he sorted his affairs out, and within days had turned to mothering the 'dear boy', baking and cooking things that Alice refused to eat for the sake of her health but Hatter ought to eat because he seemed to need it.

"And I'm not letting my daughter go around with some man who looks like he can't feed himself." Oh, her mother had her ways of digging. Apparently their little display in front of her mother that day had led Carol to believe that Alice and Hatter had been having some sort of affair.

Well aside from...that, things had been quite tame between the two. Downright cheerful; friendly, of course, but lacking in the amorous department. Alice stopped herself at that last thought. Her thoughts were beginning to sound like him, now.

Neither had brought up the subject of a relationship outside of friendship, and Alice simply figured that well, perhaps that was Hatter: impetuous and flighty. And kaleidoscopical (another word she'd picked up from him); as of recent there had been some days of downright sullenness that concerned her, and despite her own attempt at chalking it up to homesickness, she was starting to get worried. He'd return from work at the tea company (a perfect business with vast warehouse space to house the efforts to assist those returning to the other Side) and slump into the egg chair that Alice had been so gleeful to find at a yard sale, and then ignore any and all attempts from Alice (or Carol, or the few friends they had gained from the tea company) to move him.

As if on cue, he hopped down, sprightly, from the ladder and set the can on the bedside table. He wiped his hand down the front of what had been at one time her oversized t-shirt he now wore-an old one from her martial arts school that was holey and worn thin, but he'd taken to wearing once her mother had mistakenly put it in his room. "I reckon that's enough for now. Getting a bit hungry. You?" Today was a good day then, if he had an appetite and wanted her company. Since she had come over first thing that morning there had been a manic energy about him and it didn't seem to be going away.

Enjoy it, she told herself. While it lasted.

"I could use some food, yeah," Alice admitted.

"Excellent!" he exclaimed. "Now how do we cook that tarp?"

If there ever had been a time to call Princess DG fidgety, it was now as she sat on her mother's right-hand side as the the Tin Man gave report.

Leaning just enough to make eye contact behind their mother's back, Cromwellian was giving her a chastising glare. It was the 'even-after-a-year-of-being-back-you-cannot-learn-to-pay-attention-to-these-matters-can-you?'. DG stopped her idle sketching and dropped her pencil to the notepad with a sigh. It did not go unnoticed by her mother-or the guard, who faltered slightly in his speech.

"Er, that is to say, Your Highness, that one of our men received an injury, but aside from that our trip to see the Resistance Fighters of the Eastern Guild was successful in securing their allegiance with the Outer Zone and it's government."

Surely, if someone was looking on, DG's face was quite comical. She knew for a fact that Cain had been in that group and that she had not seen him in the throne room when the rest of the legion had presented itself. And what with him being a danger magnet, well...

The queen thanked him quietly and dismissed him, but DG threw her notepad down on her seat (it was more than a seat, it was a slightly smaller throne than the one her mother sat on) and followed the guard out of the room. The young woman could hear her sister's voice calling after her even as the doors shut.

"Hey wait up!" she called after the retreating figure. Instantly, the man halted and did an about face, dipping into a stiff bow from the waist. At the same time, two guards near the door they had stopped in front of did the same.

"Princess," they all said, using the typical honorific greeting. DG gave them an impatient and dismissing wave of her hand. That was always going to be annoying and creepy.

"Yeah, let's stop that. Um, wasn't there a Wyatt Cain with your men? I didn't remember seeing him in the review."

The soldier licked his lips nervously. "That would be because he is in the medical bay, Your Highness."

The medical attendants could not bow fast enough as the youngest princess swept past only a few minutes later, lifting her skirts slightly in haste, the tips of Converse shoes peeking out from beneath.

Wyatt Cain was sitting on a cot towards the back, next to the window, and buttoning up his shirt. DG stopped in front of him, and frantically searched him for injuries. Weary blue eyes, cooler and amused, watched back.

"I don't hear from you for two months and the next time I see you, you're in the medical bay."

"If you had waited, you would have seen me later at the dinner."

The young woman sighed and shook her head, sending dark brown curls in various directions. "I don't like this, Cain. It's like you're avoiding me or something and I don't know why."

"DG," he started, and then stopped as he reached over to grab up his fedora. "I apologize if you feel hurt by my actions, but being at the borders doesn't leave much time to sent back missives other than my reports. The Tower was too far away for me to send messages to."

She glared stubbornly at the isolation curtain beside her. "You give better reports than that other guy."

"Second Commander Tin Man Nelson?" She nodded. "That would because he only gets to give reports when I'm not able to."

"Yeah, usually that means you're shot." After giving a slight bow to the princess, a medic handed paperwork to Cain who scribbled his signature quickly. The Tin Man gestured for DG to leave ahead of him, and as soon as they were in the hallway, she rounded on him.

"I mean it, Cain. I see Glitch, Raw, and Tudor all the time. Hell, I see Jeb more than you. That's how I know you've been back a few times without seeing me. What's going on?" DG could not care less that they were in a busy hallway, she wanted an answer. In the year that had almost passed since eclipse, Cain had been over eager to stay out of Central City and away from his friends. The royal officer seemed nervous and weighing something, about to speak.

"Cain!" Glitch called, pleasantly surprised. "And the Princess. How lucky!"

Lucky for him, maybe, she thought begrudgingly as her formerly-zippered friend strode down the hallway towards them. He took her arm and gave her a look of false-chastisement.

"Your sister has been looking all over for you, you know. She says you have got a lot of explaining to do after tearing out of that meeting." On the other side of the Queen's Advisor, one of her Tin Men gave her daughter a curious look.

"It killed the cat, you know," she said lamely before shuffling off to find her sister.

The cell was cold, dark, and quite frankly, furnished in the most drab colors that the Red Queen (she refused to add that nasty, two syllable word 'former' in front of it) had rounded on the guards who had escorted her and told them to execute whomever had been responsible for the color choice.

"That would have been you, by your express order, actually," said the Suit as the unshackled her and then twisted the key that would start the complex series of locks to shut the cell. Like a snake, metal slithered its way into place. Even from the inside of the door, it was impressive.

"Well I have always had good taste," she said to herself, pleased. When she got out of this mess, she's install these lovely doors in all the rooms of the new Casino.

Jack threw down the papers he had been reviewing and sank back in his chair. His parents had never cared for the more practical parts of running a kingdom, the budgeting, the crops, and the inter-realm politics. In the past thirty years of their reign, any and all contact with other kingdoms had been lost due to laziness, a feeling of superiority, and the fact of the oyster farming. Things had to change if they were going to survive.

With tired eyes he cast a glance to the map on the wall to his study. It was outdated, he realized as his eyes traced the borders to the north and west. Intel had made him aware of the Outer Zone's most recent efforts to solidify as a kingdom in the past year; initially some had fled to the lovely kingdom when his mother had taken over, but when the evil sorceress had taken hold of the throne there, that, too was lost as a refugee location. The rebellion had grown greatly during that time.

And to the north was Grislind, an area with a failing monarchy, a destitute financial system, and angry, rebelling subjects. That was what he wished to avoid. That was something he feared.

"Jeremy," he called, and seconds later the goateed man entered his room. Despite the three months that had passed since the fall of the Casino, the man who had formerly been labeled '10' still entered his chambers with trepidation. The king realized that after years of a queen ruling by fear, it would take a great sum of time to win back the trust and support of his subjects.

"Yes, Your Majesty?"

"I'd like to have a meeting with Council tomorrow. We will be sending a representative into the west to the Outer Zone."

This seemed to surprise the man, who bowed with a confused expression on his face. "Of course, Your Highness."

His eyes fell instinctively on the patch of muddy dark at the top of his map, and knew that it had grown since the time of the map's creation. "If there is any way for Wonderland to survive, it will be with help from every possible place imaginable."