"Hats are a fickle thing," Alice tells Hatter. "Maybe they're just not for me."

He puts a hand over his heart, looking genuinely wounded. (His hands, incidentally, are clothed in fraying fingerless gloves: he has, Alice observes with some amusement, embraced the shabby-hipster-chic look with entirely too much enthusiasm.)

"Alice," Hatter says. "Love of my life. Dear, silly little dove. There is a hat for everyone. Several, in my case. Dozens. Scores. But that's neither here nor there. I will find you your hat, my heart."

"That wasn't a challenge," Alice says worriedly, but he has a determined look on his face:

"Challenge accepted," he says.

"Oh, God," Alice says.

He beams at her.

hat #1:
fedora. grey. belted and buckled in black.

"I look like an escapee from a gangster flick," Alice says. "Or a Justin Timberlake video."

He taps the brim of it lower. She squints at him; she can only see out of one eye.

"Very stylish," he says approvingly.

When she has to tilt her head all the way back to see the movie screen the people in the row behind them start muttering mutinously.

"Oi," Hatter says. "Quiet in back."

"Oi," one guy mocks him. "Down in front."

Maybe it's not Alice; maybe it's Hatter's beaver topper that's causing the annoyance.

"Yours is very nice," Alice says comfortingly after they're kicked out of the theater. "We oysters just aren't ready for that kind of avant-garde fashion."

He puts his top hat back on his head defiantly.

hat #2:
wool cap. purple. snug.

"Practical," Alice concedes. "Cozy. Nice colour. Murder on my hair, though." When she pulls it off to demonstrate, her hair is both staticky and utterly flat.

He brushes the snowflakes off the crown of her head and takes the hat from her hands.

"I like you in purple," he says.

"I know you do," she says. He thrust the hat into his pocket, and she kisses his cheek.

hat #7:
beret. felt. two euro at a street stall three blocks over from notre dame.

"Do you have an oddly-shaped skull?" he asks. "Honestly. Because I thought everyone could pull off a beret."

"Do I really look that bad?" Alice asks.

"No," he says unconvincingly. "Not at all."

She pulls the plate of crepes closer, hunching her shoulders.

hat #21:
leghorn. green straw. ribboned in white, with a cluster of red cherries at the ear.

"Seriously?" Alice says. She pokes one of the cherries. "Seriously. You're not even trying any more."

Hatter slumps against the wall. "I am!" he says. "There's a finite combination of styles, you know."

"Then you'll get there eventually," she says.

"I'm a failure," he says.

"You haven't failed," Alice says, gathering up her keys and purse. "It's just a tougher quest than you thought. What's the fun in an easy challenge, right?"

"I should run away and join Charlie in the woods," he says. "My reputation as hatter and Hatter is ruined."

She snatches away his tweed flat-cap and fits it over her own head. "There," she says. "The perfect hat. You won!"

"You're just trying to make me feel better," he says, eyeing her suspiciously.

"Not at all," she says. "Come on. We're late for lunch."

Hatter follows behind her as she locks up the apartment. "I feel oddly naked," he says. "Can I have mine back now?" There is a plaintive note in his voice.

"I'm holding it hostage," Alice says. She fluffs up his dark hair, making it stand upright and startled before she starts down the stairs.

"Hey," he says.

She turns; he is standing above her, still on the landing. He catches her by the scarf and tugs until she climbs back up to meet him. He kisses her, and then steals his hat back.

"Mine," he says.