AUBB Story: The Ties That Bind by Lyndasty, Art by Xocoatldreams, Rated PG-13/R
Fandom: NCIS/Syfy's Alice
Rating: PG-13/R (mainly for allusions to violence)
Warning: Mentions of violence (off screen but the descriptions are graphic).
Word Count: 19,616
Summary: Set after the events of Syfy's Alice. When Jack Heart, King of Wonderland, is accused of murdering his wife, Duchess, he flees through the Looking Glass to the only person he knows can clear his name. On this side of the Looking Glass, Abagail Sciuto, forensics expert for NCIS, is hiding a past that is coming back to haunt her courtesy of her little brother, Jack.
Banner by the AWESOME xocoatldreams
A/N: This is officially the longest story I have ever written and I wouldn't have even written it without my wonderful and precious krysalys getting me into the NCIS fandom to begin with. I also had the best beta imaginable, jgroovydaisy! She was a miracle worker and helped me get this story into the format you're (hopefully) going to read.
Jack Frederick Heart, King of Wonderland, was exhausted. It had been over a year since his mother, Mary Elizabeth Constance Devillias Heart, Queen of Hearts and Wonderland, was overthrown by the remnants of the Resistance along with himself and most of his mother's suits. Alice of Legend, known to her friends as Alice Hamilton, had shown everyone that the Queen only had power over them because they gave it to her. Jack's first act as King was to banish his mother but under guard to ensure her security, both from others and in case she got an idea to raise a coup to retrieve her thrown.
The day had taken quite a toll on the King. His mother had died under mysterious circumstances and there had been rumblings that she was assassinated on Jack's orders. He'd considered it from time to time, but he knew that compassion was a much better motivator than brutality so he let his mother be. He was even saddened when he was told of her disappearance and, again, when he declared her dead for political reasons. The announcement of her death had finally been wrapped up. His newest project was an outreach of sorts. Jack had converted one of his mother’s many castles into a place for the people of Wonderland. It was a haven to provide assistance to the people needing help coming off his mother’s addictive teas or just a safe place to go if they had no where else to go. Jack had placed the tending of the Wonderland House in the capable and sternly gentle hands of Charlie, the last remaining White Knight.
Jack turned the knob to the front door of his apartments in the next dwelling over from Wonderland House. He was immediately worried because he and his wife, Duchess, always kept their doors locked. It was a small nod to how tenuous the new Wonderland was.
"Duch? Duchess?" He called out into the darkened foyer. He gently palmed the light up but there was no sign of his wife anywhere. Jack went into every room, turning and leaving the lights on in his wake, looking for Duchess. Usually she was with him on outings to Wonderland House and other high profile events. Their marriage was more for appearances; Duchess politely refused the title Queen, saying her role was to support her husband and she could do that without a title. Duchess adored him, he knew that, and he was fond of her but his heart lay elsewhere. Regardless of that, Jack's fondness for his wife had grown into a protectiveness of sorts. Her voice generally chimed throughout their apartments as soon as he was home but all he heard was silence.
Jack was starting to panic. There was something terribly wrong. Duch, as he'd taken to calling her, was never this quiet. Even if she was sleeping, he should be able to hear her gentle, steady breathing as he moved closer to their bedroom.
"Duch are you..." Jack palmed the lights on just inside their bedroom but the words caught in his throat as he was shown the gruesome scene before him. Duchess, his devoted and loving wife, lay dead in a pool of, what Jack presumed, was her own blood. There was blood staining her always immaculate blonde hair, her eyes open, a permanent look of horror frozen on her features and a knife sticking up from her chest like some barbaric flag of triumph. Jack staggered forward, grabbing at the knife protruding from his wife's chest and pulled it out, hoping, foolishly, that the actions would be the catalyst for him to wake up from the gruesome scene but it didn't. Dropping the knife with a thud, Jack managed to get to his feet and stumble out of the bedroom, only stopping when his back hit the wall opposite the door to their room. He slid along the wall back towards the main doors, knowing there would be guards just down the hall.
"HELP! GUARDS! COME QUICKLY! Duchess..." Jack choked on her name and moved aside as the guards came rushing into the apartment. He sat down on the first chair he bumped into and dropped his head into his hands. More and more guards and both newly established and organized authorities filed in, notes being taken of every little detail. He tried closing his eyes but when he did, all he could see was the look of terror frozen on Duchess's sweet face. So, instead of closing his eyes, he stared at the floor, pleading with the deities that this was all just a horrible nightmare that he would escape from soon.
"Your...Your majesty?" A hesitant voice called to him from the doorway to their dining room. Jack's head came up slowly, looking to identify the person calling him.
"Yes Constable? How can I help you?" His voice was gravelly and strained. Jack sat up straight, giving his back a much needed break from his slouching.
"Well, Majesty, I...I mean we...the other constable and the scene commander need to question you." There was anxiety and tension all over the boy. Jack silently wished that no one so young should have to see things like this.
Jack stood up to walk into the dining room. As he took his first step, he heard the man who had to have been the scene commander say rather loudly, that he, Jack, was their only suspect seeing as how there was no sign of forced entry and there were the rumors about the marriage between Jack and the Duchess. A thought flashed across Jack’s mind. By his own law, he'd be taken into custody until justice could be determined. Jack had precious few true friends who would, and could, speak to his innocence and his devotion to Duchess. Jack would be found guilty and then he would either be banished or executed. He took a deep breath and nodded at the young constable, motioning for him to enter the dining room first. As the young man turned his back, Jack turned as well and ran. He ran and ran until he found an alley in the city where he could hide. There was nowhere safe in Wonderland for him to go. In fact, there was only one place he knew he could go for help, hopefully. Jack made sure there was nobody following him before hunching his shoulders and heading for a Looking Glass.
Abigail Sciuto sat, or more like perched, on the very edge of her computer chair, waiting somewhat patiently for the last of the DNA comparison to print out for inclusion in their report. She smiled at how easy things seemed and she didn't mean her work. No one had to tell or ask her for the DNA report; she just knew that, when the suspect was arrested and transferred into custody, it was time for her to write up and print out her forensic contributions to the case report.
Her cell phone rang but it wasn't her regular cell phone. She went over to her desk, pulling the secondary phone out of the drawer where she kept, actually hid, it while at work. The name on the caller ID shocked her beyond comprehension.
Jack. Jack was calling her; Jack would only call her when he was here and he'd said, the last time they'd seen each other, that he'd never be back. So why was he back and why was he calling her? Abby shook her head before turning the phone down to silent and slipping it into her bag so, hopefully, she could forget about it.
She heard the sliding doors to her office/lab slide open and she could tell by the footfalls that it was McGee.
"McGee...what brings you to my dark realm?" She tried to sound as upbeat as her teammates were used to her being but it was difficult.
"Dark realm? That's a new one. I came for the Hiles forensic notes. DNA and fingerprint analysis right?" Tim leaned against the side of her desk as she bounced over to the computer she'd been working on.
"DNA, fingerprints, and ballistics report. Here you go." Abby's smile died on her lips as her phone vibrated against whatever it was next to in her bag. McGee gave her a questioning look as she scooted around him, reached into her bag, and hit ignore. She opened her mouth to say something but the phone vibrated loudly again.
"You gonna answer that?" McGee's face had surprise, suspicion, and intrigue written all over it. Abby mock scowled at him before grabbing her bag to head out.
"Maybe. Later McGee!" Usually Abby was one of the last ones out of the NCIS office building but she needed to get home to find out what was going on and why her distant brother was calling her.
Jack slapped the phone shut harder than he needed to but he was frustrated. He'd barely made it to the Looking Glass designated for his target city. He rocked back against the stone wall behind him. Jack took a deep breath and opened his phone to repeat the call. And again it went to a messaging contraption.
"If you're hearing this, there had better be a damned good reason for you to have this number so leave me a message."
Jack chuckled cynically. Slight paranoia was to be expected. He sighed before speaking.
"I know I said I wouldn't be back and, truthfully, I don't want to be back here. However, I couldn't stay in Wonderland. I...I know I have no real right to ask this but I need your help...A...I don't even know what to call you. Please call me. I need you. Please." He didn't even try to hide the desperation in his voice. He hit the end button to end the call and let his head drop and his eyes close. He was exhausted. He couldn't remember when the last time he'd slept was, let alone the last time he ate. He was in a different city than when he'd gone looking for Alice. Jack was completely lost and getting more and more worried with each ignored phone call he made.
He worked to keep his eyes open. He'd tried to sleep when he first landed because of the physical exertion of getting through the Looking Glass. Every time he closed his eyes, Duchess's body was branded into his mind and that's all he could see. He jerked his head up and shook his head to get the blood flowing around his brain. It wasn't working.
Jack stood up to walk around the abandoned building. It was typical for a Looking Glass portal network set up by his mother. Many portals meant a bigger variety of Oysters...humans. Jack stopped walking when he made his mistake. He had to stop calling them Oysters. They're humans just like he was except for the fact that people in Wonderland tend to live much longer lives than people on this side of the Glass.
As the sun was setting, he couldn't help but think about a very special girl who had a spark like no other and a laugh that would echo in the wind. Her long black hair looked like spun onyx and she usually kept it pulled back when she was doing something. Jack smiled as he remembered how she used to dance around their rooms, laughing and singing and talking to him about everything.
His older sister was an amazing creature. Jack had idolized her as long as he could remember. As a matter of fact, he had more memories of her during his childhood than he did his mother. It was only after her sister disappeared that Jack came to his mother's attention and scheming. The day the Queen had made it official that Jack would, someday, succeed her as the ruler of Wonderland was a bittersweet day for Jack. He could just imagine his sister squirming and fidgeting at the thought of being the center of attention.
The phone in his pocket started ringing and Jack answered it without even looking at the caller identification.
"I didn't think you'd call me back or even take my calls so thank you." His voice was unsteady.
"You'd better have a damned good reason for calling me. I thought you had shut down the Looking Glass portals. You promised you wouldn't be back." Jack rubbed at the bridge of his nose. This was going to be a tricky and delicate operation.
"I did but I also kept one active for Alice and Hatter in case they wanted to come back to Wonderland to visit. I'm the only one who knows about the last Looking Glass I swear." He leaned back against the wall and slid down it.
"So why are you here? And what does it have to do with me?"
Jack glanced around again more out of nervous habit that actual concern. "Not over the phone please. It's rather a long story that's much more suited to an in-person retelling." He said a silent prayer and held his breath as he waited on the response.
"Fine. Where are you?"
Abby navigated her way through the warehouse district near the waterfront, looking for a supposedly telltale orange door. She was about to give up and turn around when she saw a large cargo door that was faded but still definitely orange.
'Damn. He's really back here,' Abby thought almost angrily. She sighed, open and closed her car door 4 times as they'd arranged as her signal. She straightened up, her spine rigid in anticipation of a double cross but the longer she waited, the more worried she got. A figure slinking along the side of the building put her on alert until she could see his face in the muted light. She didn't move until he was sitting in the passenger seat next to her.
"Brother." There was a subtle sneer to her voice that she partially regretted.
"Sister. It's good to see you again," Abby glanced at Jack just in time to see him smile before turning her attention back to driving. "How long has it been?"
"Six months. You?" Abby cut her eyes towards her brother and was somewhat worried about the way he looked. He'd lost weight and there were dark circles under his eyes. Jack wasn't used to the way time passed on this side of the Looking Glass.
"That all? It's been over a year back home." It was impossible for her to miss the slight note of disbelief in his voice.
Silence crept into the car so Abby hit the button on a remote control for her mp3 player and quickly adjusted the volume to only slightly deafening. Luckily, there was little traffic on the roads which made the trip back to her place relatively quick. She glanced over at Jack a few times but his head was tilted back and his eyes were closed. Abby wondered how long he'd gone without sleep and immediately filed that in the list of things to ask him.
Jack closed his eyes and let the pulsing beat of his sister's music soothe him to sleep. It was a little loud but silence was something he'd had quite enough of to last him the rest of his life. At least with the loud beats in the music, Jack's mind was too preoccupied trying to stave off a headache that he was temporarily free of the mental image of Duch's bloody features looking up at him.
While Abby drove she was mentally running through the variety of things that could explain her brother's physical appearance and why he was back on her side of the Looking Glass. The last time she'd seen Jack, he'd ask her help in trying to find a woman named Alice Hamilton. She was hesitant to help but she'd never been able to turn down her adorable little brother. She used her access to NCIS databases to find Alice, obtain a brief insight into her life and passed on the information. She gave the information to Jack after one promise: once he found Alice and took her back to Wonderland, he'd make sure to shut down and dispose of the Looking Glass portals.)
She pulled the car into her driveway, expecting the stopping of the car to wake Jack up but it didn't. Jack always had been a sound sleeper. Abby gently shook Jack's arm to wake him up but wasn't expecting his violent reaction. Jack screamed as he jerked awake, causing Abby to fling herself away from him and back against her door. Jack's eyes were dilated and he was breathing very rapidly.
"Aceline?!" There was a violent edge to Jack's voice that both worried and scared Abby. It didn't help that Jack was using that name. She hadn't heard that name since, well, the last time she'd seen Jack and she'd made it a point to tell him then not to use that name again.
"Jack what the hell?!" Abby's voice was shrill but she didn't care. Precious few things scared her but, right now, her brother was terrifying her.
"I'm sorry," Jack gasped between breaths. "I haven't been sleeping very well since..." He shook his head and turned to his sister. "I didn't mean to scare you, Abby." He was careful to use her 'new' name.
Abby motioned for him to get out of the car and follow her into the building, making sure to pause long enough for him to catch up before opening the door to her building. They walked quietly towards the back of the building to her apartment. Abby unlocked and opened the door, standing aside to let Jack enter first. Jack stepped just inside the door and waited. He had no idea the layout to his sister's residence. Add to that the fact that the room was dark and he was doubly cautious.
"Jack you can sit down." Abby turned on a couple of lights and motioned for her brother to sit down in an unoccupied arm chair, the lone nod to mainstream culture in her entire apartment. She put her bag down and went to get something to drink out of her refrigerator. She grabbed two bottles of water just in case Jack was thirsty. She handed him the other bottle on her way out of the kitchen and noticed how he practically tore the top off, guzzling the water down. There was silence in the apartment. Abby couldn't figure out where to start on her list of questions so she threw caution to the wind. "So why are you back here?" Abby turned a critical eye to her brother and waited for him to answer.
"Because I'm wanted for murder."
Abby didn't even try to hide how shocked Jack's revelation had left her. She knew things had been difficult for her brother but to be accused of murder?
"Did you do it?"
It was Jack's turn to look shocked. "Of course not. How can you even think that?"
"Because the last time I saw you, you seemed pretty desperate to get rid of our mother so it's a short jump from that to murder." Abby sat down on the bench opposite her brother.
"I couldn't murder anyone, not even our mother, Jack said fatigue bleeding through. “It's not her murder I'm accused of. It's my wife's." Jack scrubbed one hand over his face and rubbed his eyes. The relief from his all too brief nap on the ride over was wearing off and exhaustion was creeping back.
"No. Alice is home where she belongs, with Hatter. They're the reason I left the last Looking Glass open, in case they ever wanted or needed to come back to Wonderland. No, I married the Duchess of Diamonds. Mother always intended for us to marry and, when all was said and done with the coup, we were married. She loved me and I was...fond...of her." He noted the doubtful look on Abby's face. "I didn't love her the way she loved me but she was there for me when I needed someone and helped me more than anyone."
"So what happened?" Abby took a notebook and pen out of her bag to take notes as Jack continued with his story. He told her about going to Wonderland House and how long he'd been there. Abby watched her brother carefully as he relayed the gory details of finding the Duchess dead in their apartments. The details didn't faze her but the look of despair on her brother's face broke her heart. This was not a man who could commit cold blooded murder. Abby looked over all her notes to make sure she had all the pertinent facts before setting the notebook to one side.
"That's everything up until I called you." Jack sighed and slumped back in his chair. Abby watched him carefully. Every time his eyes started to close, Jack jumped and scrubbed his eyes open again. She wracked her brain for anything to do or say to comfort the man across from her but she couldn't think of anything. If it had been one of her NCIS teammates, she wouldn't hesitate to wrap her arms around them. But this was Jack, a brother that, while she loved, was a stranger to her.
"Okay so what can I do? We're not in Wonderland..." Abby's voice trailed off as Jack turned his red-rimmed eyes towards her. She balked in the wake of the glare he turned towards her. "What, you can't be serious..." She shook her head and got up, pacing around in a circle.
"That's not my name anymore." She met his icy gaze with her own, standing her ground when he rose across from her and took a step towards her.
"But it's who you are."
The siblings continued to try and stare each other down but neither gave so much as an inch. Abby saw it the moment her brother decided to give a little. He softened his stance and let his head drop.
"Abby, please. I need your help." His eyes were pleading with her and she felt her own resolve softening slightly. She motioned for him to continue. "I need you to come back to Wonderland with me and help prove my innocence."
"I'm not...I don't...no. I can't." Abby sat back down on her chaise and crossed her arms over her chest, fighting the urge to rock back and forth slowly. Jack knelt down in front of her, placing his hands on either side of her legs.
"Yes you can. That's what you do here, yes? Solve crimes? That's all I'm asking you to do there. You're the only one who can help me. There's no one in Wonderland who can do what you and your oysters..." She glared at him menacingly. "I'm sorry. There's no one in Wonderland who can do what you and your human friends do. You solve crimes that are unsolvable. There's no one else I can ask."
Abby stared back down at the floor. There were so many things going through her mind and her heart. She knew that she would be safe. Jack had said that their mother, the one who'd ordered her death all those years ago, was now dead herself, along with her father. "Jack, I haven't been there in a lifetime. I have a life here that I love with friends who are my family, a family who loves me more than anything. They need me here." Her breath caught in her throat as a tear escaped the corner of Jack's eye before he quickly wiped it away.
"I need you, too, Lina." His voice was barely above a whisper as he gave her one last imploring look. The way his voice broke when he used his old nickname for her. That was the one thing she knew she couldn't say no to, especially when her last memory of him from their youth flashed in her mind.
Jack had been barely four years old when their mother had ordered her to be put to death. Jack cried the entire was through her mother's pronouncement of sentencing. She silently willed him the strength to stand tall under her mother's withering gaze but he ran from the room to their secret hiding place.
"It's not fair, Lina. All you did was ask a question." Jack's small voice was hoarse from crying. She gathered him into her arms, rocking him quietly.
"I know, Jack. But Mother...well, it's an adult thing. Everything will be okay I promise." She kissed the top of his small head as he clung to her desperately.
"How? She said you had to die! How is that gonna be okay?!" He was hysterical.
"Father's promised to take care of me. He's taking me through the Looking Glass so that Mother will think I'm dead. Once I'm out of her sight, she'll forget about me. See? Everything will be fine. Someday, you might even be able to sneak through and find me. The White Rabbit will always know where I am." She heard the approaching footfalls of their father and his guard coming to take her away. She took a necklace Jack had given her off and handed it back to him. "Don't forget me, Jack. Promise." She gently pushed him away and stood tall as her father opened the doors to their rooms, motioning for her to come with him. Aceline Heart kept her eyes trained on her father as she walked towards the door, sparing only one look at the last possible moment back to her baby brother.
"Lina!" He was reaching for her but their father's most trusted guard held him. His cries were the last thing she heard from the palace as Aceline Heart left Wonderland behind.
Abby locked eyes with her brother and she knew in that instant that she couldn't turn him down. He had no one else to go to that could help him like she could. She held her arms out to Jack and wrapped them around him protectively. No matter what, he was her baby brother and she wouldn't let anyone or anything hurt him anymore.