For here -David Bowie
Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do
Alice took on the role of manager, and handled the calls and arrangements for their trip. She sounded crisp and professional on the phone at all times, but inwardly, she found herself becoming giddy with excitement. The production company handling the television show would bear the brunt of expenses, including business class airline tickets, and a very nice room in a famous Vegas landmark hotel. The hotel theatre would be the site of most of the stage magic performances, and the attached casino would likely be used as well.
Alice's mother Carol was equally excited for them, having been given a highly edited version of how 'David' got the job in the Magic Club in the first place, and the full truth of his being scouted by the famous Harry the Hat. In congratulations, Carol gifted the couple with a new set of luggage, though Alice rather worried the entire large case would be taken up by Hatter's hats.
Hatter spent part of almost every day between the offer and the actual departure date contemplating what to pack. Alice knew her lover could be a bit of a clothes-horse, but this verged on ridiculous.
"Hatter!" Alice laughed, as he arranged several outfits on the bed for the fifth time. "There's still almost two weeks before we leave. You don't have to decide now."
He tapped his chin with his finger. "You know, that's a good point, luv. Plenty of time for another shopping trip too."
Alice groaned. Shopping with Hatter was like taking a half-dozen fashionistas on a spree. The man spent more time in a dressing room than any woman Alice had ever heard of.
Finally, the day arrived. Alice had conceded defeat and let Hatter claim the largest suitcase for himself. She easily made do with the second largest. They expected to spend only a week in Las Vegas, even if Hatter got the gig on the show, since it shouldn't take more than two days to shoot his segments. Still, they had no idea how the rest of the days would go, so Alice carefully planned a packing list combining nice casual clothes with dressy options.
Hatter, on the other hand, ended up simply shrugging and he stuffed as many things as he could into the suitcase without crushing his hats.
Alice tried coaching him about airline travel. The security gate made her very nervous, worrying that Hatter's documents wouldn't hold up to T.S.A. scrutiny.
They arrived two hours before the flight. That alone was enough to get Hatter going on a rant, because of course in Wonderland, no-one who wasn't authorized or in custody got on a scarab, so to Hatter's mind, if you had a ticket, you were authorized. Alice tried to explain that it wasn't the selling of tickets that was screened, it was the actual getting on the plane. That led to a long diatribe about dishonest business practices, given that someone could pay for a ticket but be prevented from flying, which Hatter viewed as a scam on the airline's part.
Then there were the metal bits.
Perhaps letting Hatter watch the movie 'This Is Spinal Tap' the day before they left was a mistake.
Alice carefully removed all her jewelry and her watch and put it all in her carry-on. She deftly stepped out of her shoes and added them to the x-ray line. Behind her, she could hear Hatter muttering in annoyance as he pulled off his boots. Hat and jacket joined the boots on the conveyer belt.
She shot him a warning glance over her shoulder before she stepped through the scanner. The security official waved her on. She quickly grabbed her shoes and bag.
Then Hatter stepped through. The scanner beeped. Hatter began to smirk.
"Please step back, sir. Do you have anything in your pockets?"
"Nope," Hatter said, popping the 'p'. Alice tensed. She knew he only did that when feeling particularly contrary, or teasing. He dug both hands into his trouser pockets and pulled them inside out.
"How about a belt buckle?"
Hatter, grinning widely, lifted his shirt hem high enough to show the belt-less waistband of his vintage green corduroys… along with a line of dark hair below his navel, and the obvious inference, given how low his pants rode, that he wore no underwear. Alice sighed with frustration as several women nearby tittered.
The security guy waved him back through the scanner, and again the alarm went off. "Please step over here," the guard ordered.
Another guard appeared with a scanning wand, and sure enough, the alert sounded right over a sensitive portion of Hatter's anatomy.
That's when Alice remembered Hatter's amusement while watching 'Spinal Tap'. "Hatter, you didn't!" she gasped, drawing everyone's attention.
"Didn't what, luv?" he asked calmly.
Alice glared at him before turning to the security guards. "He was watching 'Spinal Tap' yesterday."
The younger guard snickered as the older looked blankly confused. The younger turned to Hatter. "Sporting anything in your package?" he asked with a fake accent.
"I swear I'm not," Hatter replied easily. "Can prove it too," he added with a grin.
Alice groaned and covered her eyes.
Then a female guard came to her rescue. "Vintage pants," the woman pointed out.
"I assure you, madam, what's in my pants is perfectly contemporary," Hatter shot back. The younger male guard laughed again, while Alice tried to die of embarrassment right there.
The woman gave Hatter a look, the sort of look that only a middle-aged woman can turn on a younger smart-mouthed male. "The corduroys. They're vintage. The zip is probably real metal."
"Alright, this way," the younger guard led Hatter to a small room off to the side, while Alice waited in agonies of worry and mortification. A couple of other women in the line gave her grins and winks as she waited.
Finally, Hatter and the guard emerged from the room, Hatter smirking as the guard laughed again.
"Next time, Hatter, don't be such a smartass about it," the guard said with a smile as he waved Hatter toward where Alice waited with her carry-on, and his boots, jacket and hat.
"Couldn't resist, mate," Hatter told the guard with an easy shrug. He sauntered over to Alice and kissed her. "Alright, luv?" He took his hat and flipped it onto his head with an easy toss.
"You…. you are impossible!" Alice muttered, torn between amusement and anger.
He hummed a little in agreement, jamming his feet into his boots. Then he leaned closer as he took the jacket from her hands. "Are you going to make me pay for it?" he asked suggestively. Alice couldn't help the giggle that escaped. Hatter donned his jacket and slung an arm around her shoulders. "I've read," he continued, "about something called the 'mile high club'…"
"Hatter!" Alice hissed before laughing outright. His smile told her that he merely teased, but she liked the warm feelings she got from his humor and flirting.
Alice bought a bottle of water from a newsstand and fumbled with the pill case from her carry-on. They still had almost an hour before the flight, and so she had to take a pill now.
Hatter frowned as she popped the small blue capsule into her mouth and chased it with a swallow of water. "What was that?" he asked suspiciously.
"Anti-anxiety pill," she told him, closing the pill case and dropping it back in her bag. "Fear of heights, remember?"
"We live on the third floor," he pointed out, but Alice shook her head.
"That's fine, it's big heights. Like that ridiculous city you come from, or…" She dropped her voice lower, for his ears only, "mechanical flamingos and casino rooftops and things."
"What does the pill do?"
"It just keeps me relaxed, so I don't freak out." She leaned against his shoulder. "It's alright, Hatter, I've flown before, and I always take one."
"You said these airplanes were perfectly safe," he reminded her.
"Yes, and sometimes fears are not completely rational. May I remind you of your aversion to cats?"
Hatter scowled. "Cats are tricky, nefarious, creatures, not to be trusted at all. A cat will pretend to be friendly and kind, with the rubbing and the purring, and then turn around and betray you to the nearest Suit without so much as a by-your-leave."
Alice looked at him with an expression of surprise. She knew he didn't like cats, but that complaint seemed a bit too specific for mere distaste.
"Nevermind," Hatter muttered, turning his attention to the planes outside the window.
When their flight was finally called, Hatter's sense of humor returned with a vengeance. He appeared to be thoroughly amused by the jostling and subtle competition to get on board. "As if it would take off without them," he muttered to her, a chuckle hidden in his tone.
Once on board, of course, the inevitable Battle for the Overhead Bins began.
Alice watched with a touch of concern as Hatter surveyed the luggage space the two passengers had been arguing over with intense concentration before smiling calmly. "Right then," he clapped his hands and easily hoisted the first overstuffed item and turned it flush against the side, before moving on and blocking her view of work. When he moved back to sit beside her, she finally saw the result of his intervention and was surprised at just how well it worked. Everything was neatly arranged, easy to access and allowed the bin to close with a soft click when the flight attendant passed by. Both argumentative passengers conceded with airs of disbelief, all wind taken out of their sails by Hatter's brisk and efficient work.
Not wanting to jump to conclusions, Alice couldn't help asking, "How in the world did you make all that fit?"
Hatter flashed a mischievous grin as his eyes scanned the people about them, "Well it was part of my old job requirement now wasn't it?"
The confusion must have been easy to read on her face when he looked back at her as he leaned in to elaborate, "I mean, I know I need some space in my trousers love, but you didn't really believe I smuggled everything down to the Library in them now did you?"
She had to smother her giggles with her hands as Hatter's brown eyes danced.
"Come to think of it, how did you smuggle those two chunks of cheese down there?" Alice asked. "I mean, we didn't stop for anything on the way to the Library, which means you had to … already have had two wheels of cheese tucked into your waistband?" Her tone got progressively more confused as she went on. "Did you regularly keep food in your pockets?"
But Hatter refused to satisfy her curiosity. However, once they were airborne, and under a complementary fleece blanket, he took it upon himself to satisfy a couple of other things for her. Not quite the Mile High Club, but close enough.
to be continued