No excuses, just got burnt out for a while. Sorry.

Alice sighed in a ridiculous amount of contentment enjoying the afterglow and the gentle caress of Hatter's fingers idly stroking her shoulder. Laying on the Resistance-provided bed, her head was resting on his shoulder, his left arm running beneath her. The air in the room wasn't overly cool, but coupled with the thin sheen of sweat that had been on her skin, it was enough for Alice to pull the wrinkled sheet over herself. Hatter lay sprawled immodestly beside her, humming tunelessly to himself.

"You know, you were so right," he said in a very satisfied tone. Alice tilted her head up, looking at his face.

"About what?"

He grinned, peering at her from the corner of his eye. "I might like your world, after all."

She snorted and rolled her eyes, weakly slapping her hand against his chest for being cheeky. "If you had just taken my word for it to begin with, you wouldn't have had to wait eight weeks."

He snapped his fingers ruefully. "I supposed I should always listen to you from now on?"

"Oh, God, no," she chuckled. "I'm horrible at decision making. I left, didn't I?"

"That makes us even, then." He nodded once, contented with that. After a brief pause. "What's a con-dom?" he asked, over enunciating the word. Despite laying in bed in naked, post-coital bliss, the question made Alice blush. And giggle. She explained sexually transmitted diseases to him, amused by the less than sweet pillow talk they were engaging in, and he looked properly horrified.

"Well, I don't have any of those." Hatter insisted, then his mouth snapped shut like a mousetrap and Alice laughed, knowing exactly what he was about to ask, but thought better of at the last moment.

"Neither do I." She poked him in the ribs admonishingly, earning a chagrinned little smile. "Also, it's for birth control when a woman isn't taking anything herself.""Birth control?" He looked at her blankly and her browns rose in amazement.

"Wow, the Queen didn't let birth control through either?" Her lover shrugged, looking completely lost. "It's a pill-" keep it simple for now "-that keeps a woman from getting pregnant."

Hatter blinked and looked incredulous. "You need a pill for that?"

"Well, what do Wonderlanders use?"

"Nothing. Women only have a baby when they truly want one," he explained as if it was the most normal thing in the world. She scoffed.

"You're kidding." He wasn't. "That's just not fair." Which made him laugh. "What if the man doesn't want a baby?"

Hatter snorted. "Then he should be more careful who he sleeps with." The girl had to agree with that.

"There aren't any little Hatters running around that I need to know about, are there?" Chuckling, he shook his head and kissed her temple.

"Not yet." Another cheeky wink. Oh, she had missed him. Even if he was a huge ass.

"Don't even think about it," Alice warned him with eyes narrowed. He laughed and shook his head, then, as expected, let his gaze wander dreamily. Which earned him another poke in the ribs.

"Hey! You know, maybe it's a good thing I had to wait the eight weeks. My ribs would never have been able handle all this abuse."

"You poor thing." Alice kissed her fingertips and pressed them in the general area where she'd been poking. "All better?"

"Yes, thanks." His tone was wryly dismissive. He caught her hand, inspecting it leisurely, tracing the lines on her palm with his thumb. "Did you know that for a good while there, I thought your name was Alice Ham?"

The admission brought another laugh to her lips. It felt like the girl had laughed more today alone than she had in months, which was very possibly true.

"Thank goodness you showed me that watch and said your father's name or I might have looked foolish."

"And we wouldn't want that," she agreed, taking his hand between her own and turning the tables, doing her own inspection. It was his right hand, his sledgehammer - which had been incredibly gentle when touching and holding her, despite its fierce reputation. The palm was slightly rough, but unblemished. It was only when the girl turned it over that she saw a long, thin scar running diagonally across his knuckles. The Vorpal Blade.

Hatter had said sometimes things just happen in Wonderland, without reason. That may be true, but Alice didn't think it was the case, not when so many things had fallen to blind chance and she somehow managed to end up with the one person in all of Wonderland who could stop the legendary sword. Not when that person was Hatter, who was so amazing even without the sledgehammer fist. But she kept that to herself for the time being.

"How is my father?"

"Well. He's doing well. Most of the oysters have gone home. The Tea trade has stopped. He feels like he's putting things right again." Hatter's voice was soft as he spoke, she knew his eyes were on her and felt warm and safe under his gaze. Cared for. Perhaps a bit more than that. "He asked me about you."

"He did?" The man nodded.

"I told him what I could. But I dunno your favorite food or what books you read. How you did in school."

The slightly sad tone brought her eyes back to his and she smiled reassuringly. "Chicken parmesan, fantasy and science fiction horror, and great until eighth grade, then average."

She had been expecting a chuckle, but didn't get it. Instead more emotion than she would have anticipated washed across his face and Hatter shifted, rolling onto his side and cupping her cheek before bringing his lips to hers with a soft sound that made her heart pound all over again. Nothing she said should have warranted such a reaction, but Alice had more pressing matters to focus on at the moment.

Hatter was just as gentle this time as he had been before and, oh, but the man was a fast learner. The knowledge he'd gleaned from her body the first time around was put to devilishly good use and before she knew it, Alice was crying his name as her spine arched heedless of her protesting ribs; she was feeling no pain.

Afterward, he cuddled her close and kissed her forehead and the sweat-dampened hair sticking to her skin. The girl could feel his heart pounding, almost in time with her own, and wished there was a Tea for this, so she could drown herself in it. Though she wanted to drift and enjoy the sensation for as long as possible, his quiet, tuneless humming lulled her unfairly into sleep.

"Alice?" A soft whisper slowly brought the girl awake. From the angle of the sun in the windows, she could tell it was later in the day. Feeling robbed, she opened her eyes, but once stormy blue met chocolate, that faded like dew in the morning. "Have a good kip?"

A soft, pleased groan slipped passed the little oyster's lips as she stretched languidly. "Yes. What time is it?"

Hatter shrugged. "Afternoon. I was thinking we should probably get you home before your mother sends the police after me."

It was true they had been gone a while. When she winced sitting up, he slipped a hand behind her back and helped. "She likes you."

An amused chortle. "That's because she doesn't know what I spent the last few hours doing to her daughter."

"Are you sure about that?" The girl grinned, which made him cringe and shake his head.

"Ugh, no, Alice. Don't talk about your mum like that," he pleaded in a horrified tone. "Besides, if she knows, she's definitely going to tell your father and then I'm in trouble."

"You're scared of my dad?"

"Before I left, he told me that if I didn't treat you properly, he was going to replace my head with a cookie jar," the former Tea Shop owner insisted. Alice blinked in confusion.

"What does that even mean?"

"I dunno, but I don't want to find out, either."

Chuckling, she ran a hand down his still bare chest. "You don't need to worry. Everything you did, you most definitely did properly."

"I'd like to think so." He grinned lecherously. "You're as bad as me, I think. No wonder you let me go first down that ladder."

Alice snapped her fingers. "Darn, you saw right through me."

"Speaking of doing things properly, I thought we should get cleaned up a bit before I take you home. I was about to get in the shower."

"And you just had to let me know before?" One dark brown lifted.

"I thought you might like to join me." His words were inviting, but his expression was sympathetic. "I know how difficult those hard to reach places can be with sore ribs."

Her eyes rolled at that statement. After all, that was what a bath brush was for. But she didn't say so. "You are just too thoughtful, Mr. Templeton."

"Generosity is who I am."

For the amount of time the two spent in the shower, very little cleaning was done, and it was with pruney fingers and soupy limbs the slightly damp couple made their way back down to the street. Thankfully, Carol did not comment on the wet hair her daughter and her beau where sporting, but she did invite him to stay for dinner. So, for the second time in a week, Alice had somehow brought a man home to meet her mother.

Carol was full of questions for the young Mr. David Templeton, which Hatter fielded beautifully. To Alice it was like a game, trying to figure out how much of what he said was stretched truth and how much was outright lies. His job was particularly amusing - a sales representative of an English company that specializes in designer teas.

"And how long will you be staying in New York?" Her mother asked the question Alice most wanted to know, but had not had the guts to bring up herself. Hatter - or, was it David now? - glanced at her before answering.

"Seven weeks at least," he said. "Beyond that, I don't know yet."

"I suppose we'll just have to enjoy you while you're here, then," Carol responded pleasantly. Alice still had yet to work out why her mother seemed so keen on Hatter. Not that she was complaining, but it was odd, to say the least.

It was a perfectly pleasant meal and ended much the way her dinner with Jack had, with Carol insisting they leave the dishes and heading off to bed. Once her mother was out of earshot, the girl turned to her lover.

"Seven weeks?"

Hatter nodded. "The Glass can be set to different times, but the machinery to control it only exists on our side. If you go to the past on this side, you have to wait until Wonderland catches up. Otherwise there would be two of you."

"Which would be a bad thing." Obviously. Though, really, two Hatters in the world didn't seem so bad to Alice.

"Do you remember Drs. Dee and Dum?"

"How could I forget?" She replied distastefully.

"That's what happens when you play around with the Looking Glass."Alice held up a hand. "Wait. Those two are really the same person?"

The man nodded. "He was originally named Tweedle Dumpty."

"What, like Humpty Dumpty?"

"Humpty was his… their… the father. He was killed in an accident and Tweedle tried to find a way to control the time aspect of the Glass, so he could change the past."

"So that's what all that machinery is attached to the Looking Glass?" Hatter nodded. "Was it his father's death that made him insane?"

"Nope. He cracked the code and then he cracked. Apparently, when there are two of you in the same time, it pulls at your mind. All kinds of things go wonky. Their brainwaves interrupt and echo each others. They tried sending him forward again, but he stepped through the Glass and stepped right back out of it, worse than before."

"Why worse?"

"No one knows for sure but Tweedle." Hatter shrugged. "Most people think it's because they got the math wrong and he ran into himself again, or that Dum changed his mind and never went through. Either way, there are laws about time traveling through the Glass. So until Wonderland catches up, you're stuck with me."

"And after that?" The words were out before she realized it and the panicky feeling in her chest must have shone out through her eyes, because he took her hand and gave it a gently reassuring squeeze.

"I'm not in any hurry to get back," he insisted lightly. "I think I'll see how the other side lives for a bit."

Something in the way he said "for a bit" resonated in her mind. A bit could be a very long time, if you looked at it the right way. She smiled.

"I can help with that. The Oyster experience."

"I was hoping you would."

"Maybe we can start with some ice cream," Alice suggested, as it was too late for pizza. Hatter's brows went up towards his hair (once again monstrously well behaved for her mother's benefit) and he leaned in, to hiss.

"I thought you already did that?" The girl's brows furrowed in confusion.

"Ice cream is a dessert," she told him.

"Oh! Ice cream," Hatter repeated back to her, with a clear pause between the words. "I thought you said, 'I scream'."

Alice shook her head, covering her face with her palm. "What am I going to do with you?"

"What would you do without me?" he countered impudently. Be miserable, she didn't say. Instead, she went to tell her mother they were going for ice cream and grabbed the beautiful plum coat Hatter had given her. He smiled brightly when he saw her with the garment, taking it to help the girl put it on without tweaking her ribs.

"I've always thought this coat looked smashing on you."

"I've always liked it, myself," she agreed, earning herself a soft kiss. She buttoned the coat as her date opened the front door with an exaggerated gentlemanly bow.

"Where you all excited when it came?" Hatter asked her with a teasing smile.

"I was." There was no way she was going to tell him she cried like a baby and went and sat in a dirty warehouse, staring at a brick wall. Her mother had been worried enough, she didn't need… Alice paused and looked back at the closed apartment door, then at the coat, then at the man beside her.

"What's wrong?" He asked, looking back at the door himself. "Forget something?"

The girl smiled widely and shook her head, taking his hand and lacing their fingers together. "I think I just figured out why my mother likes you so much."

He looked affronted. "You mean, it's not my charming nature?"

"She thinks you left me just before I started dating Jack. And she never liked my relationship with him."

"No?" he intoned, looking far too pleased by that fact. She didn't begrudge him the bit of smugness, though. He had been right that she and Jack were so wrong.

"Then I told her I broke up with him because he just wasn't the guy for me."

"Entirely true." She rolled her eyes over his self satisfied grin.

"And then I got your package and… kind of… got emotional." His grin softened to something more genuine, but she went on before he could wheedle the whole truth out of her. "I told her it was an unexpected gift from a friend. Which is when I got sick on cream cake."

"Still not my fault," he insisted in a gentle tease.

"And then today, you show up and we put on quite a display, if you'll recall."

"Many times," was his cheeky reply as he hit the button for the elevator.

"So, I think my mom thinks you're the reason I rushed into a relationship with Jack. That I was trying to get over you."

Hatter snorted derisively. "As if you could get over me with one little prince."

The wisest course seemed to be ignoring his well deserved, if slightly out of control sense of arrogance. "And it was pretty romantic flying all the way back here from England and showing up on my doorstep with a flower to try and win me over."

"I'm a romantic kind of guy." The bell announced the elevator had arrived and as the doors slid open, he chuckled and shook his head. "I'm not, really. I just didn't know what else to do. I was coming over and saw a flower cart down the block and remembered you like carnations."

"Trust me." Not romantic? Who did he think he was kidding? Even without the coat and the traveling between worlds to be with her, the night in the kingdom surrounded by chiorflies would have qualified Hatter as the most romantic man she had ever met. And the fact that he did it completely oblivious to that fact made him even more special.

"That's a pretty smile," the man commented, his words dipped in curiosity. "Is it for me?"

"As a matter of fact, it is." Something warm and wonderful had curled up in her chest, something she wasn't ready to share with him. But she would, Alice knew, soon enough.