Fandom: Syfy's Alice, references to aspects of Tin Man
Characters: Alice, Hatter
Warnings: Mention of drug use, slightly Alice/Hatter
Summary: "You know what you look like right now, right? Like your about to pull back that hair of yours and start solving something. Like you did with that damned bookshelf we put together." Well, it was still standing.
Disclaimer: Not mine, but I owe a great deal of thanks to Lewis Carroll and Nick Willing for giving me a sandbox to play in.
Notes: This was originally part of the Two Bricks Short and a Few Cards Shy story, but it was far too long for it, so I cut it. And then I realized it was pretty important to Alice and Hatter's characters, so I figured I'd have to post it.
Takes place prior to the start of Bricks/Cards.
Alice rushed over to the Hatter's apartment as soon as she got his message. Her friend was slow to buzz her in and then open his door.
There was no vibrancy about him today. He looked gray and he looked tired. Alice reached a hand out to touch his arm.
The man looked pained as he turned and ushered her to a seat in the living room, before he collapsed in one himself. His back arched and curled into a smooth movement from his down turned head to where he sat on the cushion. The brunette woman found herself wanting to run a comforting hand down the shape. With his hands clasped loosely, he almost looked like he was praying. Or at confession.
"Can we just sit like this? Just like this, for a moment?" he asked, giving her that boyish vulnerable look that she had only seen in instances both precious and rare. Tamping down the rising sense of dread in her gut, she nodded.
Silence passed, ticked off second by second on the one clock that was in the kitchen.
How do you make time fly?
By throwing a clock out the window.
When he finally spoke, Hatter did so with an earnestness that shocked her. "I know when I tell you this, you won't like me very much. So I sort of want to just, as it were, savor the moment."
Quickly, she skimmed through the indiscretions he had committed that she was aware of, and came up with only one that had not really been discussed. "You're worrying me. Is this about the whole bartering thing when we first met, about my statement the other day about it being barbaric? I understand that, now. It's okay."
"No, no Alice, it's not that at all."
She'd never been patient as a child. Karate hadn't helped that much, either. Want to get a reaction? Take a jab at who you're sparring.
"Then you need to say something, because I'm going through all of these possibilities in my head and none of them are all that pleasant. Does this have anything to do with your moods recently?" Finally voicing it gave her a feeling of boldness. "Because until I walk through that door there are times I don't know who I'm going to be greeting."
The look of disgust on his face made her pause until she heard him mutter to himself. Although she couldn't quite make it out, it sounded fairly self-depreciating.
"Vapors," he spat. "I've been on Vapors."
Whatever that meant seemed difficult to admit to. "I don't know what that means." No, she didn't know, but his phrasing gave her a clue.
"Vapors. V. Nice deep inhale and you'll be blissed out for hours. Great for dealing because it's grossly addictive. Gets shipped in from the Outer Zone. A couple of years ago, I started diluting what I was selling with Confidence, and it caught on pretty well."
He sighed tiredly. "And I tested nearly every batch I produced. In the span of two years I went from the rare and occasional cup to one almost everyday. The tea in my cup the day I met you was a C-V mix."
What was the right response in a situation like this, when someone you cared about deeply told you they had a problem? When, for some reason, you felt betrayed because they did this? Was there an etiquette book regarding this? She was sure that two blocks away in that close little book shop there were books on manners and addiction and all sorts of things. Granted none of them would have any information on this, but...
"Have you used it since?"
"For the most part I've been so distracted since I got here I haven't wanted." Hatter's head shot up and he swiveled to face her. "I swear to you, Alice, I haven't had a cup since.
"I heard about, I mean, I saw pictures of the Mystic Man from the O.Z.. When I was a kid this guy was, well he was something else. He had this...grasp of the whole universe. He was magnificent. Really, the whole tin of kittens. And then just the other day I saw some archive footage of this guy, towards the end." There was fear, there, in his eyes. "I don't want this anymore."
"So you're quitting." Focus on the that, cry in the shower later.
He nodded vehemently. "I did."
"Is there some sort of group, or treatment facility?" She hated voicing the next part. "Do you need to go back?"
"Not really a common problem up until recently, so no, not much can be done on either Side. Just have to quit and hope I can wait it out."
The man in front of her was staring at the floor with a determined look, the same one she had seen in only a few instances, and when he wore it it was dangerous for whomever was on the other end of it. The fact that it was himself really worried her.
"What happened, to that man, the Mystic Man?" Alice was half-sure she knew, already, but she had to know.
"He died." And then his eyes widened just as she felt her stomach drop. "No, not from the V. Helped the resistance in the O.Z. or something. I don't know if that can happen and I don't know if being here will make a difference, either. My hand doesn't work right, so I suppose it's a bit dodgy at best." He was busy running a finger round the rim of his tea cup despondently when something occurred to him and he gave her a scrutinizing look.
"Why are you still here, anyway? You ought to be hitting me or storming out the door."
The idea hadn't really occurred to her, actually. She'd been too preoccupied with listening, trying to sort out what it all meant, and stopping herself from pulling him into a hug.
"Because that's not where I need to be. So what can we expect with this? Have you seen anyone go through withdrawal? Is there someone I can contact?"
"You know what you look like right now, right? Like your about to pull back that hair of yours and start solving something. Like you did with that damned bookshelf we put together."
Well, it was still standing.
Alice moved to sit on the coffee table directly in front of him. "We're going to get through this."
"'We?'" There was so much hope there, and fear. She wanted that silly man with the hat tricks and nonsensical sayings and that roguish charm. If she didn't stay now, would she see him again?
She had no idea about the months ahead, the days where he'd seem despondent and the others his normal, sunny self The nights he would call her crying. Alice did not know that, months later, when Hatter would find his own apartment and leave Jack's, it would be a sign to himself that he was ready to move on with his life, that he would feel he had faced his own demons; no more relying on others.
It was not easy to adopt a breezy manner as she took his hands and smiled.
"Of course, 'we'."