Disclaimer: The characters in this story are the property of SyFy and Nick Willing and are only used for fan related purposes; any dialogue used is from the actual mini-series and is only used to further the story.

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A Matter of Trust

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Five times when Hatter told the truth, and one time when Alice actually believed him.

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vi. i missed you…

Standing outside of the white door with too many peepholes and no way for him to peep inside, Hatter decided he couldn't remember the last time he'd been this nervous.

Not even facing off against a jabberwock had made him feel like this, or when he had to send a falsified report to the Hearts Casino detailing where most of the tea profits went when he knew damn well that they went to bringing comforts and food to the Resistance members in the Great Library. He wasn't this nervous whenever his trusty hat went missing, though frantic was a good word, and he was more surprised than anything when he recognized Mad March wearing that ridiculous ceramic rabbit's head in place of his own. But not nervous. With his quick wit, quicker mouth and a right fist like his, there wasn't much out there that could make him falter—though the Queen of Hearts gesturing at his head was a pretty close try.

There was no doubt, however, that he was certainly feeling a bit nervous now. Apparently, he figured, all it took was a pretty girl in a once-wet dress to make his heart thump anxiously and the bread-and-butterflies in his stomach flutter about.

He missed her and, even as he had that thought, he knew how pathetic he sounded. He'd only known Alice for a week and already he was a little desperate to see her again. He missed it all. Her subtle beauty, her strength, her loyalty, the no-nonsense way of hers where she constantly, stubbornly refused to believe a word he said… though, Hatter admitted with a quirk of his lips, that part of her wasn't so constant, was it, since it seemed she was beginning to believe him, to trust—

—before she had left, that is.

Hatter's small grin dipped.

Running it through his curious head, backwards and forwards until he couldn't make any sense and the words lost all their meaning, Hatter couldn't say for sure what exactly their last conversation had been about. Something in the way Alice said goodbye almost sounded like she expected him to go with her; something in the way Hatter tried to suggest she might want to come back really was asking her to stay. But both of them were lost in translation, even if Alice was the more perceptive of the two.

She seemed to know what Hatter was trying to really say when he said good-bye...

Her eyes brightened and she asked, "You want me to stay?"

"Hell no." Hatter, letting his practiced mouth do the thinking for him, answered before he knew what he should've said. Yes, for a start. Or, when can you move in, for another. But he didn't. He foolishly said, "No, you… I think you should go home."

The light dimmed, embarrassment replacing the spark that vanished just like that. "Yeah… yeah," she agreed, almost half-heartedly, "I've had enough of Wonderland for a lifetime."

And then she had left, making sure to give back his maroon overcoat before she vanished through the Looking Glass without so much as a backwards glance. Of course, that couldn't be entirely her fault since some fancy scientist gave her a helpful shove, but still. Alice left and Hatter sulked, his body aching from the doctors' torture, but something deeper hurting even more.

He was allowed to feel pity for approximately three minutes before shame and resentment and regret and, well, some other of those blasted emotions washed over him. Hatter was glad that he was still lingering in the Looking Glass room instead of standing barefoot on the casino floor. Those were the sort of emotions no one would ever want to experience in concentrated form. Hell, give him a bottle of Hope any day!

It was Jack, the new King of Hearts himself, who came to his rescue as Hatter stood there, for the first time since the adventure began doubting his next move. With a sniff and a martyr attitude that brought Hatter back to his senses, Alice's former boyfriend launched into some pompous lecture, thought better of it, and royally handed him the keys to the apartment Hatter was using in Alice's world and access to the clothes he was wearing now; somewhat reluctantly, he then offered the address Hatter would need, plus a cell phone with Alice's number programmed in it; and finally he had another of his scientists set the Looking Glass to take Hatter to the same place it took Alice. It was Charlie, next, who all but kicked Hatter through the shimmering reflection… but it was Hatter—David Hatter—who took the plunge and, knowing this was how the story should go, jumped straight through.

Time worked differently in Wonderland, he knew; it was fluid. It could be the first of the month, the fifth, it could be eight days back. In the Queen of Heart's world of instant gratification and now! everything depended on her mood. But time in the other world was fixed, slower even. Though it took Hatter more time than he would care to admit to finally come to his senses and follow after her, he arrived in Alice's world right behind her.

He nearly landed on top of her, too. Sprawled out on a concrete floor, her eyes were closed and her breathing was soft and slow. She was out cold.

"Just force yourself to breathe," the scientist had warned her before she pushed her through but Alice, it seemed, hadn't listened. Somehow Hatter wasn't surprised.

For just a moment, after he checked to make sure his headstrong Alice was all right—after he left Wonderland behind him for her, the least she could do was still be in one piece considering all he'd done already to keep her safe—he debated about the pros and cons of bringing Alice to her home himself. But Hatter hadn't managed to keep his head for so long by being foolish, and this didn't seem the time to start now. This wasn't his first trip through the Looking Glass and he knew from past smuggling excursions—because how else would he know that the Looking Glass was the most heavily guarded kit in Wonderland if he wasn't one of the reasons himself—how different this world was from the one he left behind.

In Wonderland you had to worry about the queen and her fatal mood swings. Here there were countless people he'd have to answer to, and inconvenient questions that might be posed—and that was including Alice's mother. Carrying her unconscious daughter home was not the sort of first impression he was hoping to make. Something more dashing, a little fanfare, perhaps some cheekiness… that was what he was going for. There was nothing else for him to do other than flag down some help, use his skill at manipulating words to suggest what might have happened instead and just pray that Alice remembered when she woke back up again, so that's what he did.

After that, all there had been left to do was wait. Hatter was not much good at waiting. As the minutes seemed to drag, he had to wonder if his old great-uncle's curse of being stuck in a never-ending tea party, time frozen out of a pointless grudge, might've followed the young Hatter into this world.

He whiled away some of the time at first by pacing outside of the hospital where Alice was taken before a shopkeeper gave him a funny look and he spent the rest of that afternoon walking around the city. True, he'd never been in this particular place before, Alice's city, but it didn't seem so different from Wonderland. Yeah, it was on the ground and perhaps there were fewer trees in some areas and some of the oysters were certainly strange, but, when it came down to it, they were almost like twins.

Hatter was quick, used to getting around inconspicuous-like, and it wasn't that hard for him to find his way, only getting lost once or twice. He got his fair share of queer looks which didn't seem quite fair considering some other fellas he met on the street. Remembering Jack Heart's last words to him, Hatter swallowed his pride and reluctantly followed Jack's advice.

This wasn't his first trip through the Looking Glass, though something told him—well, if things worked out the way he planned—that, maybe, if he was lucky, it might be his last. That thought in mind, he went to Jack's rented apartment, snorted at some of the clothes in the wardrobe before pulling on some trousers that surprisingly fit, a jacket that didn't make him look like the prince, and then sat down to wait. Even with all this practice now, he wasn't getting any better at that game.

Hatter waited until there was no possible way he could wait any longer. Using more charm than he probably needed to—her mother was already taken with David the construction worker for being the one to find Alice—he managed an invitation to the Hamilton's apartment under the guise of checking to see how well the girl was doing after her "accident". He didn't need the address she gave him, thanks to Jack, and he was glad Alice's mother didn't ask how he got their phone number.

It wasn't time for Hatter to reveal all his cards just yet. Besides, he was still a little resentful of Jack and he got in the way of that near-almost-could've been but unfortunately wasn't moment with Alice in the Kingdom of the Knights. The last thing he wanted to do was actually admit that Jack Heart wasn't as big a prat as he thought.

He tucked his hat away for safe-keeping when the time came to visit Alice at her home; he nervously flattened his unruly hair with the palm of his hand, curious if she would recognize him or not. In his experience, Hatter wasn't really Hatter without his hat.

He had a new look, a new name, a new life—

—now he just needed Alice. And maybe a slice of pizza. The other world had some pretty good tea, especially by the queen's standards, but it was the pizza that really tipped the scales for him.

And Alice, too, of course.

As he walked up to her front door, almost wishing he'd taken that last bit of Jack's advice and brought roses—though he didn't want to be that forward… before realizing that he couldn't have been any more forward than following Alice through the Looking Glass if he tried—Hatter reflected on his current emotions; they seemed more concentrated, more real ever since he crossed over. Perhaps that was why he felt so… so less than confident. He still couldn't say when he'd last been this nervous. Though, now that he that he thought about it, watching Alice flip Dodo in the halls of the Great Library before turning her glare on him when she discovered his body armor… well, those were definitely some kind of nerves.

Hatter felt his dimples sink into his cheeks at the memory. Alice was definitely some kind of woman.

She wasn't going to get rid of him so easily, either. He'd managed to bum a horse off of Charlie to follow her the last time she left him behind, and that really wasn't so very different than following her through the Looking Glass, was it? Besides, it was only right that he showed up at her apartment now, waltzing into her world the way she had waltzed into his.

Checking his breath first and cracking his knuckles anxiously next, Hatter took a deep breath, wished for a cup of tea and, before he could do anything else, knocked on the door. He made sure to use his left, just in case; he shuddered to think what his right hand folded into a fist would do to Alice's front door if he hit it just a touch too hard.

He hadn't had the good fortune of meeting Alice's mother yet but, when she opened the door in answer to his knock, his first impression was that she was nearly as lovely as her daughter; Carpenter had been a lucky man. Now wouldn't be the time to tell her, of course—there was the forward thing to worry about, and he certainly couldn't explain about Carpenter—but he tucked the compliment into the back of his mind for future use.

Still holding out hope that, indeed, there would be need for future use, he warmly introduced himself to the woman. The name of David still felt a little odd but he couldn't call himself Hatter, could he? He wasn't even wearing his hat!

She left him alone in the doorway, smiling before she turned away and called, "Alice come meet David."

Hatter took that as his cue to step inside, hesitant steps at first before he chided himself and let his desire to see Alice again push him into the hall. And there she was, the dark-haired beauty with the knowing eyes he saw every time he closed his. Moving slowly at first, weighed down by things he wish he could save her from, she only looked up and saw him when she crossed the threshold out of her room.

And then she grinned, part surprise, part relief and all wonder.

"Hatter!"

The bread-and-butterflies flapped excitedly as the sound of her voice but Hatter found himself relaxing slightly as the nerves melted away. She remembered. Thank goodness.

It all happened so fast then which, he mused later, was the very epitome of their… whatever they had. But he was Hatter and she was Alice and, when his Alice launched herself into his arms, wrapping hers around him tightly, that was all that mattered. This was exactly where each of them belonged: together.

"Finally," he sighed, wrapping his arms around her in turn as if afraid she would disappear through another looking glass if he let go. He closed his eyes before opening them again, just to make sure that this was really happening.

It was.

"You have no idea how happy I am to see you," Alice told him honestly, her warm breath tickling the back of his neck. Hatter felt like he was having the breath squeezed out of him—and he wouldn't have it any other way. He'd told her the truth when he said her hugs felt good. This was, by far, the best hug he'd ever had.

But, whether he was David or he was Hatter, he was admittedly a touch greedy. He wanted more. Waiting had made him antsy, and this time there was no Jack Heart to stick his nose in where it didn't belong.

"I missed you," he murmured, aware her mother was only a few feet away and, well, not particularly caring.

And, as Alice leaned in and gave him the kiss he'd been denied too many times, Hatter was pleased to see she finally believed him at last.


Author's Note: Well, that's that. I do want to thank everyone who took the time to read these shorts, and even review/favorite this story. I had a ball looking at some of the scenes from Hatter's view, and the view of a shipper, and I'm pleased with how it came out. This chapter did have a bit of a tie-in to my Jack-centric one shot, Jack's Heart, but only in that I envisioned Jack being instrumental in helping Alice get her man -- more out of a desire to see Alice happy than anything but still... Anywho, I hope you enjoyed this and keep an eye out for another one shot or two and a WIP I have nearly read to start posting. It should be fun :)

-- stress, 01.08.10