So instead of studying for a final that I have in three hours, I decided that I needed to write something for Syfy's "Alice", because I absolutely fell in love with Hatter, and at the end of the series I squealed like the little fangirl I am. So, here's a little oneshot delving into Hatter's thoughts just before and when he meets Alice. Constructive criticism is always appreciated!

Disclaimer: I don't own Syfy's "Alice"...or Hatter *cries*

When Ratty told him that he'd found an oyster, that it was one he'd be interested in, Hatter wasn't sure what to expect. He wasn't even certain that the rat catcher had his wits about him, especially when Ratty said that the girl was the Alice of legend. After all, how often did an oyster escape from the casino? Never, at least as far as he knew. And he knew things, he knew people who knew things. Such was one of the privileges of running a teashop. But according to the rather smelly man, the oyster apparently had use of all her faculties, knew what she wanted and what she was doing.

She was looking for someone, another oyster, and had even tried to pay the rat catcher with some sort of odd green paper. She definitely hadn't fallen prey to the Queen's brainwashing chemicals. Oysters at the casino didn't know anything, not even their own name, or so he'd heard. He'd never actually been in the casino before. No, he wasn't high enough in the ranks to gain access to the building. However, he heard things, snippets of conversation and gossip from the workers that transported the tea to his lovely shop. So that would mean that she'd somehow escaped from the scarab before it reached the casino. Ratty had found a clever little oyster, whether she be the Alice of legend or not.

So of course, he'd had no idea what to expect while he waited for the rat catcher to fetch the oyster. The name Alice made him think of a little girl, the one that had upset the government over a hundred fifty years ago. Ah, but that couldn't be right. Oysters didn't even live that long, their life spans being much shorter than those of Wonderland natives. Besides, the Queen had never harvested children from the other side of the looking glass before. That, he knew for sure.

When he heard two sets of footfalls nearing, he did the first thing that came to mind: asked the oyster if she'd like a cup of tea. He was, after all, the proprietor of the teashop, and such was in his nature to be a gracious host. But he hadn't meant the distilled emotions manufactured in the casino. No, he never indulged in those. He saw how addictive they were, how people came back for more and more, bidding on the chemicals until they had nothing left. Running the teashop, he saw the results of his business firsthand.

Was he proud of what he did? Not entirely, but someone else would be doing it if not him. He figured he might as well be the one to profit from it. Besides, the position gave him access to information, something that the resistance needed and would pay dearly for, along with whatever other goods he smuggled to them; he did benefit from working both sides of the battle, even with the tidbits of guilt that sometimes accompanied that sort of life. And maybe he didn't experience much bliss, excitement, or compassion, but that was all right. At least, whenever he did feel those sensations, as rare as those moments might be, he'd know they were real.

She declined his offer and asked, "Who are you?" He was about to just come right out with it and say his name, when he turned around in his chair and saw Alice for the first time. He hadn't known what to expect, but a pretty girl in a very wet dress had not been among his guesses. And she was a pretty girl…in a very wet dress.

Instead, he said, "A friend…I hope." Oh yes, he definitely wanted to be her friend. Maybe it was because he knew that she wouldn't stand a chance without him, knew that she'd be caught in no time without his protection, but for some reason he wanted to help this little oyster in need. Yeah, help her right out of that dress. Nah, she wasn't that pretty. It might have only been that putting the new clear conscience tea on the market that day was lying a bit more heavily on his own conscience than he preferred, and lending a hand to the girl might get rid of such bothersome niggles at the back of his mind.

But she didn't trust him, thought for sure that he had some ulterior motive for wanting to aid her, and boy she was as serious as they came. He couldn't get even the tiniest of smiles out of her. Hmm…maybe that was why he liked her. She would be a challenge. And while he usually tried to take the easy way out, kissing butts what needed kissing to avoid trouble, sometimes a little challenge was fun. So he led her out of his base of operations, his home, to help her find Jack what's-his-name.

He never expected that by the time he was through helping her, she'd become more than just an oyster, more than a gateway out of guilt, more than a challenge, more than a pretty girl in a very wet dress, and that he'd want to be more than just her friend.