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[personal profile] charybdis
So. The Losers Big Bang. I'm planning an Alice fusion, but Duchess keeps stealing the show. Here's the first thousand words so far. Yes, it's in desperate need of a rewrite. I'm saving that for after I figure out the rest of the story.

How Duchess Killed the Red Queen, Played the White Rabbit, and Saved Wonderland from CIA Gunrunners -- featuring Duchess, with guest appearances by Cougar

Cougar finds Duchess standing alone in front of the looking glass, and she says, “Your friends have already passed through. Pooch and Jensen. There is, I’m afraid, only enough power for one more person.”

“Then I will wait,” says Cougar. Let Clay go, he doesn’t say, but she can read it in his eyes anyway, and though she sighs, she doesn’t argue, just turns to look in the mirror and she says, “Cougar.”

He goes to her, slides his hands over her shoulders, because this is simple. This is nothing. When they were young, when they were engaged to be married, she was always close. But this time, he wants to see his hands frame her slim throat, wants to see the trusting way she leans back into his touch, takes a step into his space. For the first time, he wishes for his old rifle, to complete the picture.

There’s blood dripping down her face, just a trickle, from a cut on her forehead, and he rubs his thumb over the spot where it ends at her jawline, smudging the red so it almost could be warpaint. She gives him a crooked smile, says, “Blood,” soft enough that he knows it’s only meant for him.

She says, “Cougar. Thank you for everything you’ve done for us. Thank you.”

He hums in response. He tucks his face against the side of her neck — she smells dusty and dry, bleached as bone, and this time the scent makes his stomach twist with nostalgia — and he lets her take off his hat, and she says, softly, “Cougar— Carlos. You have to.”

She’s the only Wonderlander who hasn’t called him Hatter once since he came here. He wonders if it’s a sign of her short memory or a deeper understanding of precisely who he means to be — that he hasn’t been Hatter for years.

She says, “Listen, you have to remember. I know you grew up here — same as I did — I know your world is red and white and black, but you have to understand. There are more things to life than war.”

He laughs softly against her skin, because of course he knows that.

She raises her hands to cover his, grips them tight, and when she speaks, her voice is like an overdose of Surrender, rolling him under, low and sudden. “Promise me. This life is more than war. Promise me you won’t forget.”

He says, “I swear,” without even thinking it, straight from the depths of his body, as true as anything he’s ever told her.

He’s still recovering from her intensity — and that’s maybe why he doesn’t realize what she’s planning to do, when her grip on his hands tightens, and she flips him over her shoulder and directly through the Looking Glass.

The last thing he sees as he’s falling, is her face, determined and distant as befits a Queen, not at all sorry, as she tosses his hat through after him.

But this is not where the story really starts.

***

There is a canyon where the Knights once mined the frabjous ore that they built into the wondrous Looking Glass and the Stone of Wonderland. The mines are long since bled dry and the quarry abandoned, But people say that people have been lost there (the stories linger) and they say you never know where you will wake up. The wisdom of the Knights is long lost, along with the knowledge of how to build a new Looking Glass, smelt a new Stone, but the power remains in the rock itself, lining the canyon walls, barren and massive.

He was only there because he didn't have a choice. He was being pursued by Suits, Spades of the most manic sort, and it was the canyon or the blade.

His rifle -- stolen from an Imperial stockpile -- banged painfully against his back as he ran, dangling from the well-worn strap. He could not spare a hand to steady it, though, for the canyon was treacherous with rubble and gravel that shifted beneath his feet, and he needed both hands for balance. The Hat stayed steady on his head. But of course it did. It was the reason he had gotten into this situation in the first place.

He did not swear as he squeezed through a narrow passage in the rock, though he spared a thought for the Hat, hoping it might be left behind. It had been his father's hat. It had been in the family for generations, and it passed down the family madness, they said. He'd had no idea that the family madness felt like *this*, like the purest serenity seeping in directly through his skull, silent and sweet and still.

The Spades that were after him were not armed with rifles, only with the usual arsenal of knives and swords and daggers. Which meant that he had a chance of survival, so long as they hadn't brought--

A shot rang out, echoing off the canyon walls like thunder. Something ricocheted off the rock to his left.

He shimmied a little deeper into the narrow passage and followed the trajectory of the shot back. Even if there had been space to bring his rifle up, he had no scope -- but he didn't need one to recognize him. March.

Sixteen years of sharing space — rooms and tables and dark corners and beds— he could recognize the way March stood, one hand on his hip and one hand on whatever weapon that he could find.

There was air circulating through the close corridor of rock, a sliver of light at the end, and he pushed forward, struggling, praying that there would be enough space for him and his rifle -- the Hat could worry about itself.

The way was longer than he'd expected, and he almost thought that Duchess had lied to him -- but then the light and the breeze and he forced his way through the last meter, emerging into bright sunlight and open space, a sloping shore next to a still pool of water that reflected the sky in perfect definition. He stopped moment to bless Duchess for the accurate directions, and then stooped to take a drink.

Another shot rent the air and he jerked back out of reflex, lost his balance on the loose gravel around the pool, and the next thing he knew, he was falling-

But that's not where the story starts, either.


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charybdis

July 2015

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