Disclaimer: Fanfiction=based on someone else's world/characters etc…the plot is mine, that's it

A/N: My first attempt at fanfiction! I'm really obsessed with this Alice mini-series :) And why eleven chapters in one? Because I didn't figure out the document manager until chapter 26. Hey… it's not user-friendly, okay?


Always


Chapter 1:

He kissed her as if she was his whole world, and in a way, she was.

Her mother was looking on in shock, but she didn't care. There had been too many missed opportunities already between them.

He saw her look at him with love shining plainly through her eyes, and he had to kiss her, he had to act. He had to trust finally and completely that what he was feeling would be echoed in Alice, because if it was not, he might as well not go on living. If she could trust him, then he had to do the same for her. He had missed her, and the brief few weeks he waited to follow her through the looking glass were miserable. Wasted time, time he could have had with his Alice, and she was his Alice now. He never wanted to leave her side again, not for anything. He could kiss her for hours.

Carol cleared her throat, trying to capture their attention.

When this failed, she cried, "Alice, what on earth is going on here?"

Alice and Hatter broke their kiss; both seemed somewhat surprised to see Carol standing there.

Alice blushed scarlet and stammered, "Mom, it's a long story."

Carol waited for more, but Alice turned to Hatter, grabbed his hand and led him out the door.

She called out over her shoulder, "I'll explain later, we're going out for a while."

She tried to get them far enough away from the apartment quickly enough so that her mother wouldn't try to ask any more questions that she really didn't have answers for.

She dragged Hatter along behind her for half a block before finally slowing her pace, but she kept his hand intertwined with hers. She didn't want to let him go. Hatter pulled her to a stop.

"Where are we going, and when can we stop so I can do this again?" he asked as he gathered her in his arms again.

She laughed and returned the embrace, "My dojo. It's empty on Sundays, I have a key, and it's right on the corner down there."

Hatter didn't know what a dojo was, but if it was nearby, he was more than happy to go there. If it was nearby and empty…well, he debated picking her up and running for it.

She unlocked the door and led him to the back of the dojo to the office space that all the instructors collectively used. She sighed in relief that the dojo actually was empty. There were a few other instructors, and sometimes they liked to use the office after hours. Hatter looked around, trying to figure out the purpose for the large empty space.

"It's where I teach martial arts, my fighting style," she said, answering his unspoken question. "There are no classes right now, and it seemed like the best place to go for some privacy. I had to get us out of there."

He smiled at that, and bent to kiss her again, "Privacy is good," he said as his lips brushed hers.

"Mmm…as much as I am enjoying this part, why are you here?" she asked, breaking off the kiss after a few deliciously indulgent minutes.

Hatter looked down at her wide open eyes and felt a surge of fear. What if he had made a mistake? Did he misread the love in her eyes? What if she didn't really want him here, what if she thought he was just visiting…?

She must have seen it in his face, bacause Alice reached up to cup his face in her hand and stared directly into his eyes.

"I am glad you're here, for whatever reason. I missed you too," she said as she planted a gentle kiss on his mouth.

He sighed in relief and rested his forehead on hers. He saw a stack of mats pushed up against the wall in the corner and led Alice to them and sat down, and then pulled Alice closer as she sat down next to him.

"It is a long story, you were right about that," he smiled, "As it turns out, I'm an idiot. I thought…well, I thought you didn't want me around. And rather do the sensible thing and ask you, I just assumed you made your choice and let you go."

He looked down, "And I thought you would be better off without me," he finished in a rush,"Even if you were with Jack, he could-"

Her eyes flashed angrily, "Jack! You thought I had chosen Jack?"

"Well, you were giving him a lot of attention before you left," he defended. "Until Charlie set me straight I just assumed…Ow!" he massaged his shoulder where she had just punched him.

She was still staring daggers at him so he just shrugged helplessly.

"Look Alice, look at Jack Heart and then look at me. I'm nothin'; I've got nothin' to offer. Why would you pick me? And over a king, no less."

Alice sighed, and hugged him close to her so fiercely she knocked his black hat from his head, "Because Hatter, he isn't you. I wanted you. You mean more to me than Jack could have ever been."

He smiled then, the real smile that lit up his chocolate colored eyes and made her want to melt into him. She mussed his hair and sat his hat back on his head.

"Hatter, I like you as you are, and I like who you are, it is more than enough for me," she said.

"Like, huh?" he asked softly, a note of hurt in his voice.

It was Alice's turn to be embarrassed. She looked at the concrete floor at the edge of the floor mats, her face burning.

He was hurt, but he tried not to be. He tried not to push, but in the end he couldn't let it go. Alice was forever trying to bury her head in the sand, and he damn well wasn't going to let her do it with him. He loved her, and he knew it as surely as he knew he couldn't let her go. If she didn't love him, he would just have to wait it out until she did. He sighed. But he had to know, so he pushed.

"Alice? Is that all I am to you? Someone that you like? Could I hope for an 'a lot' at least?" he added sarcastically with a false laugh.

She still wouldn't meet his gaze, she couldn't.

He stood suddenly and faced away from her, his head down. She always pushed back, on everything. He thought she would have something to say.

She stared up at him, at a loss. She barely knew him; she couldn't possibly love him already, could she? Love takes time, and learning about each other. But seeing him standing there, hearing the hurt in his voice, she wasn't so sure.

He sighed deeply and started to walk away from her, trying to give her some space.

Sudden panic set in and clenched her heart in a vice, stealing her breath.

She grabbed for his hand, caught it, "Hatter, don't go. Look at me."

He didn't move, so she stood up and got in front of him, "I do like you a lot, and probably more than I have liked anyone…" she began to explain.

His jaw was set in that familiar stubborn line, but she saw the tears threatening to overflow his eyes.

That comment had hurt him. It had hurt more than the cattle prod that he still bore scars from on his ribs, or being stabbed, or any number of injuries from the past. He would deal with it, for her, but it hurt and this time he wasn't going to try to hide it.

Alice gazed into his pain filled face and decided she was tired of being the cause of that look on his face, and she knew what it was, because it made her hurt too. She was breaking his heart, after he presented it to her so earnestly, so openly. She looked into that wounded gaze and knew, finally.

"Looks like I'm an idiot too. I love you. Don't go, don't ever go," she said.

He replied with a shaky laugh, "I have never been able to let you go, why start now?"

He pulled her to him tightly for another kiss, his lips crashed into hers with more intensity.

"I love you, my Alice. You think I came all this way just to walk away?" he asked softly.

She shook her head no, and grabbed a handful of hair at the back of his neck and pulled him to her in a tight embrace. He closed his eyes and inhaled the scent of her hair. Even if this was all she was ready to give, he was happy with it. He had time, and patience.

A/N: I debated on Hatter pushing the "I like you" issue, but the scene on the beach convinced me it was the right way to go.


Chapter 2

Alice had other ideas. She snaked her other hand under the edge of his t-shirt so she could touch the bare skin of his back, smiling as he shivered beneath her touch. She traced her hand up and down his spine, enjoying the feel of his skin, hot beneath her hand. He whispered her name into her hair. Hatter and his jackets and hats, she thought. She wanted to run her hands through all of that unruly hair; she wanted to touch him skin to skin, she wanted to see him. He had certainly seen enough of her in her soaking wet sleeveless dress... Time to level the playing field. She snagged the hat from his head and stepped backwards to put some space between them. He looked at her in confusion, until she began peeling the jacket off of his shoulders. Alice, once she had decided upon something, was single-minded in her pursuit.

She slipped her hands under his shirt and pulled him in for another heated kiss. His head was spinning, his blood pounding, but his conscience was telling him to stop. Stupid conscience, he thought. He pulled away, holding her at arm length. He gave a shuddering sigh as he tried to steady his breathing and his thoughts. He wanted to be sure she'd not do anything she would regret later.

"Alice, you don't need to prove anything to me," he began, but she quickly silenced him with a kiss.

"Since when have I ever done anything I didn't want to?" she replied.

He laughed, "You have a point."

Alice moved in close again and looked into his face as he lost his smile; he searched her face trying to understand, wanting to be sure.

"Protecting me still?" she asked softly.

"Always," he answered, and as usual, his true feelings were written all over his expressive face.

She kissed him once more softly and smiled, "I know what I want, but we have time, and we do need to talk."

And maybe a cold shower, she said to herself.

They sat back down on the floor mats, facing each other. With a shy half smile Hatter held her hand between his larger ones. He was not a big man, but tiny little Alice made him feel like he was.

This side of Hatter amused Alice to no end. She had gotten so used his cocky attitude and confidence that seeing him shy and unsure was so…well… cute. Although there was nothing unsure about the way he kissed, that was as passionate and intense as he was. Everything about Hatter was animated and intense, from the way he spoke to the way he moved… always gesturing wildly. Even now, as he held her hand, he was petting the back of it, tracing circles, caressing. She wondered if he could still speak if he sat on his hands, and then that get her wondering how good he actually was with his hands in other applications. The shower was starting to sound even more necessary. Must focus on business.

"Ok, first things first. How long have you been here, how did you find me, and do you have a place to stay?" she asked.

Hatter was having a little more difficulty shifting gears. She had said that she wanted him, it was kind of hard to get past that (no pun intended). His clothes felt too tight and too warm, but he made the effort to focus. He rescued his hat off of the floor and let go of her hand to fiddle with it, beginning to go through some simple tricks to clear his mind. Might as well start at the beginning with how long he had been in her world. He explained that he had come out of the mirror about an hour after she had, in her time, and found her lying on the ground. His jaw clenched as he thought back on it, and as he thought how roughly she had been pushed through the mirror.

Alice touched his clenching jaw, "I'm fine," she said.

He nodded curtly and continued. "I found someone off the street, and they called for help. I rode along with you to the hospital, I told the medic I was your boyfriend so they'd let me come. Your mum showed up a little later and asked if I was the construction worker that called the hospital."

He shrugged, "I went with it."

Alice groaned, "And I went and tackled you as soon as you came through the door. What can we tell her now?"

Hatter laughed, "Let me think on it, I think this falls more along my strengths then yours, love."

Bravado aside, he was at a loss on how to best explain it, unless perhaps they could say they knew each other from before. He was afraid he had ruined any chance of a good cover with the construction worker bit. If Alice's mother was anything like Alice, she wouldn't buy a flimsy story.

"Maybe we could just move away?" he asked, half jokingly.

"So…do you need a place to stay?" She asked, letting go of the problem of coming up with a cover story for the moment.

Hatter shook his head no, smirking slightly, "As much as I hate to admit it, Jack gave me the keys to his flat, and he set me up with the legal stuff and some of your 'pieces of paper.' I think he was feeling guilty, and oddly enough…thankful. It's paid up until next month."

Jack had also filled him in on some very necessary aspects of life on the other side, like the fact that he would need a job. An honest, respectable job that Alice wouldn't be ashamed of. He was bloody well not going to be living off of Jack! He was a good businessman, despite the dubious legality of his former employment. He was good with people, he knew how to charm them, he could usually wangle more than most folks out of people…he just didn't know how he was going to translate those abilities into something he could make money with, but he was confident he would get it sorted.

"My papers say that I am a legal resident, so now I just have to be legal, and find some work," he joked.

Alice smiled, "I can help with that. So…David? Why David?"

Hatter raised an eyebrow, "It's me name. You don't think I was born as Hatter do you?" He asked, flipping his hat back on his head where it belonged.

She hadn't really thought about it, but she remembered him telling her a ridiculous story about why they called him Hatter, some bullshit about philanthropy.

"Okay, David," she said, trying the new name out carefully.

He held up a hand, "Hatter, if you please. I haven't been David for a long time now."

She considered the seriousness of his expression and realized she really didn't know that much about him. She knew him, the truth of him, the core of him…she knew his heart and his courage and his humor and his strength and determination, but she wanted to know about him. Where to start?

"Have you had anything to eat?" she smirked as something occurred to her, "We could do pizza…" she suggested slyly.

Hatter laughed out loud, and held up both hands in surrender, "Look, I said I was an idiot! Let it be!"

He stood and held out his hands to help her up, "I would love to."

In truth, he was starving. He had been so nervous about the prospect of seeing Alice again that he wasn't able to eat anything he found in Jack's flat. He was determined to move out of there as soon as he could, and then he wondered how much time Alice had spent there. He stole a glance at her and decided that it didn't matter. She was his now.

A/N: Shorter chapter this time, but more to come. I love the reviews! Thank you so much, they are inspiring.


Chapter 3

A short time later they found themselves staring at each other across the table of Stephano's Pizza, waiting for their large pepperoni pie to arrive. Hatter studied the people in the restaurant with the same bemused expression he wore on the short walk there.

"And I thought Wonderlanders were loud," he commented.

She looked around the restaurant, trying to see it through his eyes, "Yeah. Americans have a reputation for loudness, but it's like anything else…people are people. Some are loud, some are quiet… Well, one thing to your advantage is your accent. Most people won't expect you to understand our currency, laws, and things like that. It might we awkward if you run into any Brits though…"

He looked at her in mock seriousness, "I am from a very small village, very isolated."

She rolled her eyes at his theatrics. "Seriously, we need to come up with something to tell my mother. I'm thinking that I could say I met you through the dojo, and we have been friends but were involved with other people until now…"

He interjected, "And when you ran out after Jack that night, you found him in his flat with another woman, who happened to be his fiancée."

He couldn't resist making Jack out to be the bad guy. Despite helping him to integrate into this world, he still blamed Jack for all the hurt done to Alice. In his mind, that was an unforgivable crime.

Alice continued on the same vein, "And when I ran out of there, I ran into you on the street. I was crying, and you were worried about me…"

Hatter gave her an intense stare as he continued, "And then I told you that he was no good for you anyway because he lied to you, and I kissed you because I had wanted to since I first met you…and then you ran away. I followed you, and found you on the ground. I thought you may not want to see me, so I told your mum I was a construction worker so I could try to talk to you and make sure you were okay."

Alice stared at him in amazement, "You are good at this."

He looked down at the table, "And it is somewhat true."

He didn't want her to get the wrong idea about it though, he was good at deception, but he didn't like it.

"Just so you know I don't make a habit of lying. I wish we could just tell her the truth," he explained.

Alice reached across the table and grabbed his hand, "Hey, I know. I don't like it either."

The waiter brought over their pizza and sat it on the table between them.

Hatter looked to Alice for guidance, "How do you eat it?" he asked.

"You just pick up a slice and take a bite," she answered.

"How did you find out about pizza, anyway?" she inquired.

He seemed to know quite a lot about her world, and she was curious how he managed so well when she had been so lost in his. He mentioned on the way over that he had caught a cab from the hospital to Jack's old place, and she had friends that had come to visit her in the city that couldn't have managed that. She chalked part of it up to his innate confidence. He just seemed to make up his mind to do something, and then did it. Nothing seemed to faze him, well, except for bullets, and maybe her... and evidently she should add pizza to that list.

Hatter shrugged depreciatingly, "A lot of your books make it to my world. I don't always sleep well, so I read quite a lot. I have read about it, but I have never tasted it. It sounds lovely, it just looks…disturbing."

Hatter forced a grin, determined to try it. He was hungry, and he knew that hunger made almost anything palatable. He had much experience with hunger in the past, and as a rule he tried to avoid it. Alice snagged a slice and set it on her plate so he did the same.

"Be careful," she warned, "I always burn the roof of my mouth."

Warily he picked up the piece and took a bite while Alice anxiously watched his expression. He chewed it thoughtfully, and swallowed. Then took another bite, then another, and quickly polished off his first piece.

He grinned at Alice, "I like it."

He downed another piece before she had finished off her first, and was well on his way to devouring the third. She watched him eat, delighted that he was enjoying himself. Pizza was her favorite food of all time. Well, good pizza, she amended.

She took the opportunity to study him while he was occupied. He was so engrossed in eating that he didn't seem to notice, although Hatter certainly was observant. It was easy to forget how quick his mind was, how much he saw. He had to be smart and courageous to support the resistance while running the queen's tea shop. Courageous, or insane. He had even stepped in front of a loaded gun, guns actually, for her (and was shot), dashed in front of the Jaberwock, charged a contingent of suits armed only with a sword. He was like that, she mused, easy to discount.

He had a slight build (but then again, so did she), he was disarming… a charming fast-talker with a ready smile and killer dimple. She remembered his "sledgehammer" right punch, the bulletproof vest he had worn under his silk shirt and easy manner, how comfortably he handled a knife…and how quickly he fired the handgun that killed the man that shot her father. It would be a mistake to underestimate him, but with the pure excitement of new discovery lighting his eyes and a dab of pizza sauce on his chin it was easy to do.

Hatter loved pizza. If he wasn't so in love with her already, he would be now out of pure gratitude. He saw the calculating look in her eyes as she watched him eat, and hoped he was measuring up. His appetite finally sated, he wiped his mouth with the cloth on his lap and sat back in the booth, waiting for Alice to finish. He wanted some more time alone with her, but he wondered how to say it to her. He decided he'd let her take the lead on this one.


Chapter 4

Hatter had insisted on paying for the pizza, despite Alice's protests. He knew the money he had wouldn't last forever, but he certainly could afford to pay for their meal. He was glad to be out of the crowded restaurant, but he wasn't sure that standing outside Alice's place on the street was much better. She had gone in to explain things to her mother, and then she was going to come with him to his place to help him get settled in. He wondered how long it was going to take for her to come back out. It seemed to be takeing forever.

He had noticed an actual tea shop down the street as they had walked past. The shop sold gourmet teas according to the window sign, and more importantly, there was also a help wanted sign in the window. Well, you have to start somewhere, he thought. He made his way down the block and through the door of the shop and glanced around. Loose tea filled glass bins were stacked from floor to ceiling on one wall, and there were more located behind a locked case. A small area with café tables was set aside in the corner, almost as an afterthought. There was a few people sitting there drinking tea.

He walked up to the bins and began sniffing the teas, trying to see if they were similar to what he was used to. Oddly enough, they were, even down to some of the names. He smiled to see something from home here in this place that was so different from anything he knew. He could be quite happy running this sort of tea shop, conveniently located near Alice's home and her work. Of course, he needed to better understand how things worked here first.

An elderly man wandered over, and asked Hatter if he needed help finding anything. Hatter schooled his expression to reflect the appropriate level of need and confidence.

"I hope so. I'm interested in the job," he replied.

Alice wouldn't have to be embarrassed of him, he would have honest work. Eventually he might be able to buy the place out…expand...turn it into a thriving business. The challenge excited him; he couldn't wait to tell Alice. First things first, he had to get hired. In short order, he had convinced the man that he was doing him a favor by working for him. He had even been offered a bonus if he could start work tomorrow evening.

It seemed as if the man was left to run the shop alone after his wife died, and the evening hours were getting to be a little rough on him. That, coupled with the rash of burglaries nearby had made the man nervous enough to break down and hire extra help. Hatter couldn't have asked for a better situation, although he had a pang of concern about Alice walking home from the dojo alone. He knew she could take care of herself, but she awakened every protective instinct within him.

Oh no, Alice! He smiled and promised to be in early tomorrow to fill out the "paperwork," whatever that entailed, and left the shop quickly. He had not intended to be gone for so long. He hurried back to her flat, hoping that she hadn't been left waiting for him. She stood on the step in front of her building, looking worried. He jogged to her side and smiled his apology.

"Sorry, I was just checking to see what time I had to be at work tomorrow," he said casually.

Her jaw dropped, "You just got a job? In the last half hour? Seriously? Doing what exactly?" she asked, suspicion growing in her eyes.

He hoped that her suspicion was not aimed at him. His smile faltered as he began to lose his excitement.

"Hatter, just because no one is actively trying to eat you here doesn't mean that this is a safe place…"

His heart warmed as he realized that she was worried about someone taking advantage of him, not the other way around, "Calm down, love. I spoke with the gentleman that owns Specialty Teas and Imports, and he needs someone to mind the shop in the evenings. I know quite a lot about tea, the real type of tea that is… Of course, I have to fill out some papers still… but I was hired."

He took Alice's hand and kissed it before he laced his fingers with hers. Her face lost the worry and her eyes softened as she looked into his dark gaze.

They took a cab to Jack's old apartment, where Hatter was now staying. As he opened the door to let Alice in, he noticed that she seemed unfamiliar with the layout and contents. He smirked as he realized she had never been inside, and decided he felt a whole lot more comfortable staying there. He hadn't touched much of anything, aside from out of necessity.

He couldn't sleep while he waited for Alice to be released from the hospital, and he had been unable to make himself go into the bedroom anyway. His imagination had created the most unappealing pictures of what had gone on in there. He had instead watched the television all night, trying to absorb as much knowledge as he could about his new home. In the end, he had determined that a lot of what was on the television was useless.

"I know, it needs some re-decorating. Jack has no sense of style," he joked in an attempt to break the ice.

He wanted to re-build the easy camaraderie that had grown between them while she had been stuck in Wonderland instead of this uncomfortable tension that was filling up the silence. She gave him a wan ghost of a smile in response.

He tried again, "How did it go with your mum? Did she buy it?"

Alice shrugged and sat down on the couch.

"Alice? What's the matter?" he asked, settling himself next to her on the bright red couch.

"It's nothing," she said, shaking her head.

She pasted on a fake smile, but Hatter wasn't buying it.

"No. No, Alice. We are not starting off this way. If there is something wrong, you tell me," he implored.

She looked at her hands clasped in her lap and remained silent.

"Look at me," he demanded.

"I mean it. We will tell each other the truth," he asserted, a note of panic creeping into his voice.

Alice nodded, "Okay. You're right, it's just that my mom thinks that you are taking advantage of me. She thinks I threw myself at you to get over Jack. It is just… not what I had hoped. I want her to like you," she answered.

He shrugged, "She'll get used to me, love. I'm not going anywhere."

He put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close to him, relieved that she had allowed him to do so, and doubly relieved he hadn't done anything to upset her. He tucked her in closer, wrapping both arms around her and holding her to his chest. She allowed him to hold her there, and after a few moments of breathing him in, she relaxed into his embrace. She wasn't used to having someone to lean on, but surrounded by Hatter's warm embrace and spicy scent, she could get used to it. She closed her eyes and allowed him to hold her for as long as he liked.

A soft snore woke Alice, and it was her own. Embarrassed, she glanced up at Hatter who was still breathing deeply and evenly, asleep. She blinked rapidly, attempting to focus on the clock on the wall to see the time. An hour had passed, while she had dozed on Hatter's shoulder. He was still out cold, so she slid over while gently easing him down so his head rested in her lap. She set his hat down on the coffee table, and looked down at him as he slept.

It seemed she was going to get part of her wish; she began to run her fingers through his hair as he lay there. He made a small noise in his throat, and his brow wrinkled so she paused. He whimpered and cringed, then began to thrash. Alice resumed stroking his hair, and attempted to smooth the creases from his brow. A few moments later he settled back into sleep. She wondered what demons he was fighting in his dreams, and if he would tell her about them.


Chapter 5

She was beginning to nod off again when Hatter woke with a startled cry and fell to the floor, cracking his head on the wooden coffee table.

"Hatter, are you okay?" Alice asked as she knelt down next to him.

Still dazed, he sat up on the floor, leaning back against the couch for support. He felt something warm trickling down his neck, and touched the back of his head to check what it was. His fingers came away wet with blood. Alice rushed into the bathroom to get a towel and then pushed the table away to kneel in front of him. She pressed the towel hard against the back of his head and he winced.

"You always seem to end up hurt around me," Alice joked.

The content of his nightmares were still riding him hard, but he tried to smile back at Alice.

"I think you were having a bad dream; what was it?" she asked.

He didn't want to talk about it. He shook off the remnants of sleep and reached out to Alice, trying to take the towel from her, but she just smacked his hand away.

She pulled the towel away to see if the bleeding had stopped, and quickly pressed it back against his head.

"Alice, do you have to press so hard?" he asked a little breathlessly, trying for levity.

She was so near, and she smelled good, and she was here in front of him finally. He knew they hadn't been apart long in her mind, but for him it had been too long. Every time he got near her he wanted to crush her to him and keep her there. Alice was an independent girl though, and he didn't want to scare her off. She could barely admit how she felt after all they had been through together, and he was determined to not push her on everything else. He swallowed hard and looked down, then reached up to take the towel from her again.

"I've got it," he said, but his voice came out huskier than he intended.

She didn't act as if she noticed as she took the towel away again and examined the small cut his scalp, "It stopped. But you've got blood all over your shirt. Give it here, and I'll rinse it out for you in the sink so it doesn't stain."

She walked towards the kitchen and began running water in the sink. She dropped the towel in and turned around expectantly.

"I don't mind, go change. If we hurry it will come right out," she said, misinterpreting his hesitancy.

She had to spot treat her gi on occasion to get out blood spots from some sparring matches at her dojo, and she knew the trick was to catch them quickly.

"I don't have another, not yet. I wasn't able to take much with me," he answered after a few moments.

"Well, I can hang it over the shower rod and it should be dry by morning. It will do until we can get you some more clothes. At least your jacket is dark," she remarked after a moment of surprise.

Hatter considered it, and nodded. He pushed himself up to standing and walked toward Alice. He removed his lightweight jacket and handed it to her. She inspected it, and ran the collar under the water for a few moments before setting it aside.

"Shirt," she demanded, holding her hand out.

His dimple flashed in his cheek as he regarded her with amusement. She was headstrong, indeed. He peeled off the white t-shirt and held it in his hands, waiting for Alice to take it from him. Alice paused with one hand on his shirt, and looked. Deceptive was a good word for him, she was now thoroughly convinced.

He was slight, but his small frame was solid. She remembered how easily he had lowered her down off of the ladder, as if she weighed nothing. Now she knew why. Small hard muscles across his chest, strong shoulders, defined arms and a washboard stomach. She counted…that was an eight pack. In the end though, it was the scars that really held her attention. Still pink and shiny with new skin, five oblong circles marred his lower ribs and stomach. Older scars on his arms, they looked like knife wounds, and what looked like a bullet wound above his left hip.

"The sink is overflowing," he whispered as he slid in close to her.

She absentmindedly turned off the water, and dropped in his shirt.

"What is this?" she murmured, touching one of the new scars.

"It's not important," he answered.

Alice's expression grew serious as she put her hand flat on his chest and pushed backwards, "It is important. It is to me, anyway. Your rule, remember. No lies. We will tell each other the truth. So tell me," she demanded.

He gave a short laugh, "Okay, it was Dee and Dum. Cattle prod. It hurt quite a bit. Happy now?"

She shook her head no. Cattle prods didn't normally leave scars, unless they were held to the skin for a long time. No, she was definitely not happy.

"Is that what the dream was about?" she asked.

She just wouldn't quit, he thought, "Partly. I really don't want to talk about it. I will, I promise… but not now, okay?"

She looked at him quizzically, her brow creasing in worry.

He took her hands in his and attempted to explain, "There are memories I would rather not explore tonight. Not when I have finally got you back with me. I'd like to just avoid bad memories tonight if you don't mind."

She nodded, satisfied, "So, what did you bring with you? We are going to have to do some shopping tomorrow to get you some clothes, but I am sure there are other things you'll need too. Let me see your papers, that's a start."

He pointed to the brown leather messenger bag lying on the desk in the corner of the living room, "It's all in there. As close as I can figure, I was born here in America, but I was raised in West Yorkshire, England. I have citizenship in England, too," he said as he spread the papers out across the table.

She picked up his passport, it looked real to her. She opened it, and smiled to see his name, David Hatter. His address was the building they were standing in, and the photo must be recent. He had a healing cut on his forehead and eyebrow, and a horrible case of hat hair.

"Well, you should bring this with you to work tomorrow and the birth certificate, too. Let me see what else you may need," she glanced up at him, "How long did all of this take to put together?"

He sat at the desk while she stood over him, sorting through all of the papers.

"Time works differently in Wonderland, but I guess it would equal a couple of weeks of your time. Jack wouldn't let me go until I had all of this. He said to tell you it was his way of saying thank you. There is a letter in there for you, also," he offered.

It rankled, for him to owe so much to Jack, of all people. He had to admit, the man must have cared for Alice, but he was glad just the same that he appeared to be making a life with the Duchess now. He wanted to tell Alice about her, but he didn't know how to do it without sounding like a jealous prat, so he kept his mouth shut. She opened the letter and began reading, then began to smile. Jealousy raged within Hatter, so he looked down at the desk and swallowed it down. Alice absentmindedly began stroking his hair as she continued to read, he leaned into her, relieved that she remembered it was him sitting next to her.

"He is going to marry the Duchess after all, and Charlie is Captain of the Guard! He is supposed to train all of the new knights," she related.

Hatter grinned at her as she shared the news, "That is a frightening thought!" he laughed up at her, and warmed.

This was what he missed. Her sharing with him, laughing with him. He would do anything, give up anything to keep this. And he had, but everything lost meaning without Alice to share it with. Someday he would tell her everything, but not now, not tonight.

A/N: Whew, this chapter took some thinking. Thank you reviewers! I welcome your comments, and they really help me want to write more!


Chapter 6

Alice jumped guiltily as her cell phone rang. She glanced down at it, and saw her mother's number on the display. She rolled her eyes at Hatter and answered it. Hatter decided he might as well do some more exploring around his new home while he waited for Alice to finish speaking with her mother. He figured she might want some privacy while she talked, so he wandered into the bedroom to have a look around.

Jack's poor taste thankfully didn't extend into his bedroom. More likely, it was just that he hadn't made any effort to give this space the appearance that he was a permanent resident of Alice's world. The front living space was like a mask; it looked like what Jack wanted people to see. The bedroom was sterile in comparison with its bare white walls and plain furniture. There was a computer in the corner, but Hatter didn't see much of a purpose for it. Computers were used in Wonderland, but only by the very rich, and of course, the scientists. He had never seen the point, but maybe Jack had his uses for it.

The only color in the room was the blood red duvet covering the bed. It had to be red, he thought. You can take a Heart out of his kingdom, but you can't take the kingdom out of a Heart. He opened the set of bi-fold doors on the wall, and surveyed the few items in Jack's wardrobe critically. Nothing would fit him very well, but even if it did fit he couldn't imagine putting on Jack's clothes. Thanks anyway, I'll pass. He would much rather buy new ones with Alice.

Alice entered the room silently behind him. She looked unhappy again, after speaking with her mother. He didn't mean to be the cause of problems between them, but he was serious when he said he wasn't going anywhere. Alice's mother would just have to learn to live with him, and he would win her over eventually. Hell, if he could win over Alice, her mother would be easy... that is, if he'd actually won Alice. He couldn't shake the feeling that he was walking on eggshells with her, despite her assurances to the contrary.

"Everything alright?" he asked, turning to look at Alice.

She nodded, but continued to frown at him. He crossed the room towards her and stood directly in front of her, searching her eyes for signs of trouble. He reached out for her, needing the contact, held her shoulders and waited for her answer.

"I need to go; my mom is expecting me for dinner," she said, her sadness radiating from her in almost visible waves.

Hatter's face fell in disappointment. It seemed like he had barely spent any time with her, and now she was leaving. He was going to be away from her all evening tomorrow while he was at work, and she had classes and work of her own. He had hoped he could at least have some time with her tonight.

"It's not ordinarily a big deal, but she made this special meal for me because I got released from the hospital and she was worried," she explained. "She went to a lot of trouble…"

He attempted to smile his reassurance. It was wrong to expect her to drop everything just to spend time with him. He couldn't expect that of her. Her mum was expecting her for dinner, and if she blew it off to spend time with him, it also wouldn't win him any points with her mother. He tried again for a smile, and this time he pulled it off.

"Alice, if you need to go, then go. We'll see each other tomorrow, yeah? It's okay, really," he lied.

Alice looked into his deep brown eyes, and was lost. He looked sincere as he said she should go home, but she had seen the disappointment before he covered it. She didn't know what else to do, other than to invite him to come home with her for dinner. If she did that, not only would she be subjecting Hatter to her mother's third degree, but she'd also have to listen to her 'be careful' speech again. He would probably hate it. She shouldn't assume he would just automatically come with her, anyway. She was sure he was tired, and probably had a nasty headache from cracking his head open. And he would have said it if he wanted to go with her.

Hatter cleared his throat and stepped away, stopping in front of the computer, "You know what I noticed? There are computers everywhere here. It seems like everyone uses them, but I don't see what for. I just used a typewriter m'self, but my new boss said I would need some 'basic computer skills.' Do you think you can show me what I need to know tomorrow? I can meet you at your flat, or we can meet here. Whatever you like."

"Well, I can show you some basics. You will just need to play around a bit and you will pick it up. Then we'll pick you up some clothes. You could wear something of Jack's if you had to. I'm sure he has a t-shirt or something like that around here," Alice said as she looked around the room curiously.

Hatter gave her the same look he had given Charlie on several occasions, the 'oh my, you are mad' look.

She smirked, "Or not."

She made her way to the kitchen, Hatter trailing behind, and checked on his shirt. She drained the sink and walked into the bathroom to hang it to dry. She didn't understand why he was being so silly about wearing something of Jack's. It's not like he would need it anymore. She looked around the apartment, desperate for something else to do to buy her some more time with Hatter before she had to leave him here.

"Do you need anything?" she asked finally.

You, he thought. "No," he said.

He watched her leave, but this time she would be back. This time was different. He told himself that over and over, but it felt the same to his heart. He turned away from the door after a few minutes, suddenly cold without his shirt. He went back to the bedroom to dig through the lone chest of drawers in search of something that wouldn't make him look as if he was playing dress up. He dug out a grey flannel shirt that didn't look like it would be too big, and put it on. He just couldn't reconcile the Jack he knew with this article of clothing, but maybe he didn't know Jack as well as he thought. Flannel seemed way too unpretentious for him. He walked back into the living room and scooped up his hat, depositing it back on his head.

"That's better," he said to the empty room.

He was still standing in the center of the room when his door burst open. He jumped back in shock, then surged forward to catch Alice as she ran towards him and kissed him.

"Alice? I thought you were going to have dinner with your mum?" he managed to ask.

She glared up at him "I have a rule, too. We will tell each other what is on our minds. No dancing around it. For some reason I couldn't tell you that I wanted you to come with me. It will be horrible and uncomfortable for you, and if you are tired and don't want to go or face my mom or if you just aren't hungry…"

He cut off her torrent of words with a kiss.

"So that means I have to tell you that I don't want you to go, and I'd even tag along if you would have me? That I know you have your own life and if you won't want to spend every waking moment with me I'll deal with it, but I want to spend every moment I have with you, always…"

This time, she shut him up with her kiss.

"So, will you come to dinner? I'll try to not make it horrible. Hey, where did you get the shirt?" she asked.

"It's Jack's I guess…and yes, let's go."

A/N: A little Hatter backstory anyone?


Chapter 7

Alice decided that she would have to introduce Hatter to the subway tomorrow. The cab rides were getting expensive. He had waved off her concerns about how much money he had brought with him, but it was a waste to spend so much on cab rides when public transportation was so much cheaper. She snuggled in closer to him in the backseat, trying to breathe in his scent instead of the faint odor of vomit in the taxi's interior.

Hatter smiled as he felt Alice wiggle in closer to him. Something in him had relaxed just a little when she had come running back through his door. The tension was broken, the silences were softer. It must be that he didn't have to chase her down for once, he mused. He closed his eyes and leaned his head on hers, enjoying the comfortable silence that was between them now. Alice began to shake. Alarmed, he pulled away to see what was the matter with her. She was laughing silently, trying to stifle it behind her hand.

"What?" he asked, confused.

She didn't answer him, but giggles began escaping from her, quickly developing into fully fledged laughter.

"What are you laughing at?" he asked again, smiling despite himself.

Gasping for breath, she paused, "You are wearing my shirt."

She dissolved into giggles again at his perplexed expression.

She continued to explain when she could stop laughing long enough to catch her breath, "I wear it like a jacket, and I lost it. I must have left it in the dojo. You went through all of those clothes of Jack's and ended up with my shirt."

Hatter began to laugh with her, "Well, that explains why it fit so well, anyway," he reasoned.

She collapsed into peals of laughter at his response.

"And it was soft…" he continued.

That just set her off more until he just had to join in. He didn't remember the last time he had laughed so hard.

Alice was surprised by the sound of his laughter, joyous and rich. He laughed with abandon, and gathered her into a hug. She looked up at him, humor dancing behind his eyes and melted.

"I do love you, you know," she said before capturing his lips with hers.

The tension in him eased a little bit more with her freely given admission. He warmed, kissing her back with growing intensity and need, until the cabbie told them to get a room.

They settled back into the seat again; content just to be near each other for now.

"I do quite like the shirt, even if the color is a bit boring," he asserted.

She smacked him on the shoulder and rode the remainder of the trip to her apartment with a smile.

They were smiling and holding hands as they entered the home Alice shared with her mother. After coming face to face with Carol Hamilton, Hatter didn't feel much like smiling anymore. As a matter of fact, he felt kind of sick. His palms were sweating and his pulse was racing as she stared him down. He dropped Alice's hand and removed his hat as Alice pulled him past the threshold.

"David, so nice to see you again. Alice, you didn't mention that David would be joining us for dinner. I'll set another place," Carol said as she bustled back into the kitchen, "Would you like a cup of coffee?"

"No, thank you," he called out to her retreating back.

He turned to Alice, "Maybe I shouldn't have come," he whispered.

Alice gave his hand a squeeze, "Don't be silly, I'm going to go talk to her. I'll be right back, have a seat."

Hatter sat, playing with his hat as he waited for Alice and her mother. He couldn't help but laugh at himself for how nervous he was at the prospect of dinner with Alice's mother. He had faced much worse, but somehow this was different. He was making his hat walk up his arm when Alice came back into the room. Embarrassed, he stilled his hands. She reassured him that her mother didn't mind the intrusion and he was welcome, but he didn't buy it. He knew a disapproving mum when he saw one.

Alice watched in amazement as Hatter transformed in front of her eyes while her mother was present. It was strange to see him change his persona so drastically from what she had come to know as Hatter. He smiled and joked with her mother throughout dinner, charming her with his quick wit and bantering. She couldn't help but wonder that if it was so easy for him to switch personalities, if she was even seeing the real Hatter. He must have felt her scrutiny; he paused to meet her gaze.

The world stilled, the edges of her vision becoming blurry. She could see him in there, behind the mask. He didn't like this, she could tell. Suddenly, she knew exactly what he was feeling, in that moment. His eyes always told the truth, if she bothered to look for it, and they always had. She was secretly pleased that she had this part of him to herself. She had never been good at sharing. Panic crept in behind his eyes in a flash; her mother had asked him a question. She hadn't caught it, though.

"What was that, Mom?" she asked, looking at her mother inquisitively.

She slid her hand over to Hatter's knee, trying to give him comfort. Whatever it was, it had upset him.

"I just asked Hatter about his parents, whether they lived here or in England," Carol repeated.

He had become 'Hatter' to her mother about five minutes into the dinner.

He swallowed and paled, his stomach churned and knotted. He should have anticipated the question, it was an innocent question. He should have had an answer ready; it was unlike him to forget such an important detail. Maybe it was because he was trying so hard to win over Alice's mother. Maybe it was just Alice. She had him so wrapped around her finger that he could not think straight.

"They're gone," The admission spilled from him before he could stop the words from escaping.

He took a deep breath, and looked down at the table, "Sorry," he mumbled.

Hatter took Alice's hand in his underneath the table, gripping it tightly. She noted that it trembled slightly. She was struck by how strong the urge was to comfort him, to soothe away anything that would dare to hurt her Hatter.

He cleared his throat and gave a weak smile, the real Hatter stepped in, "It's strange how that catches you off guard sometimes, even though it has been a long time. They lived in England."

Carol smiled at him gently, "I understand, dear. It happens to me sometimes, too."

And with that glimpse of real Hatter, and real empathy for his pain, he won her approval. She took that as her cue to rise and begin clearing the dishes.

Alice started to hop up to help, but Carol waved her back down, "No, just relax. Go into the other room, I'll clean up."

Hatter laughed self-consciously as they settled into the couch, "I don't know what happened there, I'm sorry."

Alice just hugged him to her.

"Your parents…" Alice began, and then paused as she felt Hatter tense against her.

"You don't have to tell me about them, it's okay," she continued.

After a few moments, he let go of her and leaned his head back against the back of the couch, wincing as the gash on the back of his head made contact.

"Hatter…" Alice searched for the words to explain how she felt, determined to be honest about her feelings for once in her life.

He sat up straighter and turned to face her, a wrinkle creasing his brow at her hesitant tone.

"You don't have to tell me anything you don't want to, and I will try not to push you on it, but I want you to trust me, too," she said gently.

He didn't answer right away. He just looked at her and considered what she said.

Finally, he nodded, "I trust you Alice. I do, believe me."

When he spoke again, his words came slowly, in halting stuttered speech. He had not told the story of his parents' death to another soul, but he owed this to Alice. He had to give her something for all that she had given him. It wasn't that awful really, and he supposed he was lucky that he had good parents to begin with even though they were gone too soon. He was fifteen, and had snuck out of the house that night. The house caught fire, and they didn't get out in time. He blamed himself, although he didn't know what he could have done. His mother was terribly forgetful though, always left the cooker on. He used to check after her, but he didn't that night.

Alice pulled him into her arms again, holding him tightly, "Thank-you," she whispered into his ear.


Chapter 8

Hatter hadn't slept well that night. It was too difficult for him to stop his mind from circling and replaying the last two days in his head. There were a few moments he was particularly fond of replaying... Alice had wanted him here with her, really and truly. It had been almost physically painful to leave her last night, but he couldn't very well stay the night with her mother in the flat.

He closed his eyes again and sighed, decided he had lain in bed long enough. He wasn't going to be getting any more sleep. Alice was supposed to be by to help him with the computer, then to take him shopping. He had to be to work at five, and his shift started at five-thirty. Alice had said she would be there around noon, and it was only seven now. He wasn't going to have that long to spend with here today. Am I pathetic or what? She has a life…

He wandered to the kitchen, searching for a kettle and tea. Jack evidently had not eaten many meals here because there was little food, utensils, or cookware. He knew without doubt that there would be tea, even if there was not another edible crumb in the flat. After much rummaging, he found tea, kettle, and cup. He put the water on, and then stumbled to the loo.

Hatter had just sat down on the couch with his tea when he heard footfalls coming in the direction of his door. He tensed as they stopped outside his door, then put down his tea on the table and moved silently to stand near the door. He peered out the peephole in the door, and saw Alice standing indecisively outside the door, her hand poised to knock.

Joy surged through Hatter at the sight of Alice at his door. He had the lock undone and the door opened before she was even able to knock.

Alice had fully planned on waiting until noon to come see him, like they had agreed on the night before. She didn't want to come across as needy or clingy, and she did have a class (which she skipped).

For the life of her, when Hatter opened the door clad only in maroon silk boxers slung low on his hips, bed head hair and a grin she couldn't remember why she was hesitating outside his door. For that matter, she was finding it difficult to remember how to breathe…or think. She almost dropped the small white bag of doughnuts she had brought to share for breakfast.

"Alice! You're early!" he exclaimed as he swept her into a hug.

"Oh, um, yeah. Is that okay? I thought you might still be sleeping…" she stuttered, blushing.

Her eyes traveled down his body, then snapped back up to his face.

"No, no. It's brilliant!" he assured her.

Finally noticing her discomfort, he looked down and noticed he hadn't put on any clothes before answering the door. Wonderlanders weren't all that shy about showing some skin, but he didn't want to upset Alice.

"Oh, yeah. Sorry. Trousers. I'll be right back," he promised.

Alice made a small sound of assent, and sat. She couldn't help being a little disappointed that he was putting clothes on. Great, now I'm going to have that picture in my head for the rest of the day. I am going to end up tackling him at this rate.

"I'll make you a cup of tea, if you'd like one," he called out from the bedroom.

Alice smiled as she recalled the first time he asked if she wanted tea. He emerged from the bedroom in the black jeans he had worn yesterday (and the day before) and her grey flannel shirt. She laughed to see him standing there barefoot, yet he had put his hat on.

"I would love a cup of tea, and I brought breakfast," Alice answered.

She was rewarded for her efforts by another one of his big dimpled grins.

"There is not a crumb to be had in this place, I'm starving!" he said, ripping open the bag.

She liked seeing Hatter like this. The serious, watchful edge was dulled; he was more relaxed. She hoped he would manage to fit in here, but Hatter was nothing if not adaptable. She shook her head as he wolfed down two doughnuts in short order. She was looking forward to shopping with him today, and it looked like they would have to go by a grocery store also.

"We'll pick up some food for you today too. Can you cook, or will it all have to be stuff you can nuke?" Alice inquired.

"Of course I can cook," Hatter indignantly replied, "What do you mean nuke?" he added, confused.

"The microwave? That little box sitting on the counter. Cooks really fast?" she elaborated.

Hatter just shook his head at her, "Sorry, no. No microwaves in Wonderland. Show me?"

Alice began to think of hundreds of things that she could show Hatter. She wondered how many would be similar from his world to hers. He was a quick study on the computer, and was delighted when she showed him how the internet worked. She cautioned him about entering personal information or credit card numbers on the web, and he just shook his head and assured her he was not an imbecile. She had done it again, forgotten how intelligent and resourceful he was. He probably would do fine without her help, but she was glad he had asked for it. Despite what he might believe, it was easy to be taken advantage of.

By the time they had finished playing around on the computer it was late enough for some stores to open. She had Hatter show her how much money he had, and she was surprised to find that he had about a thousand in cash, and another ten thousand in a bank account. He also wanted her to show him how to get money out of the bank account. He could probably afford to take the cab every day if he wanted to, but at this suggestion he grew tight lipped. He insisted that he didn't want to spend the money in the account if he could avoid it.

She explained about public transportation and the subway, and she said she would ride with him to work because she had to teach a class tonight, and then all the black belts had a class afterwards with the Sensei. Her dojo was only about one block from the tea store and three blocks from her apartment, but Hatter had asked if she would come to the tea store after she was done so he could walk her home. She told him that he could just meet her at her apartment after he got off, but he was insistent. She was thrilled to have Hatter so nearby, but she had managed to make it home by herself for years. In the end, he had seemed so worried about it that she relented.

She held his hand as they descended the steps into the subway. As usual for that time of morning the corridors were packed in with people. She purchased their fare, and then drug Hatter along behind her to wait for their train. He moved in closer to her, putting his arm around her waist. His expression was serious, wary. He did not like the crowd, the press of people, and the predatory looks he intercepted when they focused on Alice.

It was worse when they got on the train. Hatter didn't speak more than two words on the trip, generally acknowledging her words with grunts. Noting his discomfiture, Alice stopped trying to engage him in conversation. He glowered at anyone that came too close, and those that had any sense realized he was no easy target. To the average law-abiding citizen, Hatter looked non-threatening. But Alice knew something they didn't; Hatter was a dangerous man, despite appearances to the contrary.

He shed the solemnity like an old coat as they left the subway and entered a brightly lit retail store famous for unusual clothing. She thought Hatter would like this; he seemed to have definite ideas about fashion.

Hatter was in heaven. There were racks and racks of clothes, and hats! He grabbed a few items and went to the little tiny rooms in the back of the store to try them on. Alice picked out a few more and tossed them over the door at him. When he came out of the room with his first outfit on, she burst out laughing. The pants and shirt together screamed seventies disco, a bad seventies disco. Hatter went back into the room looking a little bit crestfallen. The next time he opened the door, he was….neutral. He had picked the plainest items and put them together, dark brown trousers and tan button down shirt.

"Is this better?" he asked, "I don't want you to be embarrassed of me, Alice."

Alice kissed him on his perfect Cupid's bow mouth, "I don't want you to ever think that. You can wear whatever you like… the first outfit was a joke though, right?"

"Not exactly…" he admitted.

She smiled, "Just put on something else."

When he next emerged from the dressing room with a flourish, she smiled her approval. It was different, just like Hatter, but he wore it well. He had kept the chocolate brown trousers, but paired it with a deep green paisley print shirt, then topped it with a deep red vest that matched the dots and swirls in the paisleys.

"I need a hat to match," he said, surveying himself critically in the mirror.

He spent a lot of money on clothes. A lot. Hatter loved clothes.

A/N: Oh come on. He had to love clothes. Did you see that wardrobe he had?

A/N: Wow. Long chapter. I'm already writing the next….obsessive thing that I am. Reviewers, thank you for inspiring me to keep writing this…


Chapter 9

They caught a cab back to Hatter's place, much to his relief. They had so many bags of clothes that the subway was out of the question. Bags of clothes and shoes and hats. Hatter's resolve to try to avoid spending the money in his bank account seemed to completely dissolve in the face of fashion. To be fair, he needed clothes. Alice wasn't so sure he needed quite so many clothes, but he did need some. She had asked him if he could just go back to Wonderland and grab some of his own things, but he just said that he wasn't going to be going back. They had planned to drop off the clothes, get lunch, and then do some grocery shopping.

Back at Hatter's apartment, he insisted upon changing clothes immediately. He changed into the first outfit he tried on for her, emerging from the bedroom in a flourish. He had done a flashy hat trick for her, depositing his new brown fedora on his head. She had laughed so hard at his antics that her ribs hurt. Alice didn't remember the last time she had been so happy. Unlike her previous boyfriends, Hatter didn't chafe at her nerves. He had his moments, but even when she was irritated with him, she wanted him nearby.

Hatter's choice of clothing got him some strange looks in the grocery store, but in a city this large, his attire was far from outrageous. It was just…quirky. And he wore it well. Alice stole glances as him throughout the day; she was having difficulty getting the image of him in the silk boxers out of her head. Unfortunately, she had been with him when he bought even more silk boxers. He seemed to have a thing for texture.

The day passed by far too fast for both Hatter and Alice. With the exception of the subway ride, Hatter thought this might be one of the best days of his life. Alice delighted in showing him her world, relishing his reactions. Truth be told, he would have been just as happy to have Alice show him more of Alice. She was watching the television in his living room while he got ready for work. He had asked her if she minded him jumping into the shower, and he swore he saw desire in her eyes before she told him to go ahead. If it would have been anyone but Alice, he would have suggested that she join him. But this was Alice, and he didn't want to ruin it. He was having a difficult time with this 'going slow' business, and he suspected that Alice was too.

She helped him gather the documents he needed for work, and then they took the subway back to her neighborhood. It was no better than last time, but he supposed he would have to get used to it. Automobiles made him nervous, and Alice said it wasn't practical in the city anyway. She had laughingly suggested a motorbike, pointing one out to him on the street. He thought it was a good idea, he could learn to drive one. Alice had been horrified, she said they were dangerous. He had laughed uproariously at that…it wasn't as if it was a flying flamingo. And she already knew how safe-ish those were firsthand.

Outside of Alice's building, they prepared to go their separate ways for the evening. They had fallen into a comfortable domesticity throughout the day, and Hatter couldn't help but wish that she lived with him. That he could wake up every morning with her. He had fallen totally and completely for her, and even stranger than that, he didn't even mind. Well, he didn't mind except for when he had to be away from her.

"Okay then, so I'll see you after you get out of your class? Or I will come to you, whichever is first." Hatter said, smiling down at Alice.

"Hatter…" she began, but at the resolve settling in his jaw line and growing seriousness of his gaze she relented.

Rolling her eyes, she answered, "Yes, I said I would didn't I?"

He hugged her to him, and gave her a rather intoxicating kiss; full of unspoken desire, want, need, love. He wanted to be sure she would be thinking of him, and she felt the same way. With a last wave and a backwards glance Hatter strode off to the tea shop. He had even managed to rein in his breathing by the time he made it down the block. He shook his head ruefully, at this rate he was going to spontaneously combust.

He had shown up at five o'clock start to his new job, thanks to Alice. He was still getting used to how time worked here. He had managed to fill out all of the forms that the proprietor had laid out for him, and then had gotten some basic explanation of what he was supposed to do. The elderly proprietor said to call him James, and had spent the first hour or so with him on shift. He cautioned Hatter about the increase in crime in the neighborhood again as he left for the evening, stating that the business on the opposing corner had been robbed last night.

Hatter was relieved that he had managed to convince Alice to let him walk her home, and grew determined to meet her at the dojo. He could almost see her dojo from outside the storefront, but he didn't her walking over late at night by herself. She looked like an easy target as tiny as she was.

He busied himself with learning all of the teas, the inventory, and the merchandise. He chatted with the customers, plying his trademark charm. His mind worked incessantly, categorizing what people bought, how they behaved, listening to conversations, and developing a more successful business model. James had also mentioned in passing that the store had a vacancy on the second floor. Hatter had told him he would like to look at it tomorrow, but he was pretty certain he would take it. Despite the fact that he had grown more comfortable in Jack's flat, it was still Jack's flat, full of Jack's things, and reminders of Jack, and he wasn't particularly fond of having Alice there with all those reminders.

He locked up at the end of the night, hurrying to try to make it to Alice before she came to him. Counting the register gave him some trouble; the currency was very different than Wonderland coins and barter. Luckily, James had spent quite a lot of time with him on this, anticipating his difficulty with foreign currency. He laughed to himself, if he only had any idea how foreign the currency really was.

He had some good ideas for the shop; he would bring up a few of them tomorrow. He was good with the customers, he knew he would be. He had even made quite a bit in tips from the small glass jar left on the counter for the customers that were there to drink tea. He wasn't quite sure why they had tipped him; Alice had explained the concept of tipping to him at lunch. She said that the people that received tips usually didn't make that much money, and they depended upon tips to help make a decent wage. He didn't understand why they didn't just pay the employees more. He turned the key in the cage that covered the storefront and made his way to Alice.

He hurried, but kept his eyes open. The neighborhood had a different feel this late at night. Hatter was reminded of certain 'no go' sectors of Wonderland. He put confidence in his stride, knowing instinctively that it was important to project that he was not an easy target. At least he hoped he was not an easy target, he had no idea if his right arm would have the same effect here. The thought gave him pause; he was too used to relying on it.

The lights were on in Alice's dojo, she must still be in class. She had said that classes were open for anyone to watch, but he didn't want to cause a disturbance. He tried to creep in as inconspicuously as possible. He took a seat at one of the folding chairs, and looked for Alice amid the similarly white clad black belted students. He was glad to see he wasn't the only one watching the class, it must be normal for them to have an audience. He spotted her dark ponytail finally, and leaned forward in his seat to watch.

Alice saw Hatter enter the dojo, trying for discretion. How he thought he could achieve any sort of discretion with the combination of his unique clothes and handsome face was beyond her. He drew attention wherever he went. She was glad he had come; she wanted him to see where she worked, and what she could do.

The black belts formed two lines and faced each other, then began to go through some throws. The students landed hard when they fell. Aside from the pads on the floor, this school practiced like it was real. Hatter almost jumped up the first time Alice's partner threw her to the mat, but the rest of the people watching didn't seem the slightest bit concerned…and neither did Alice. She slapped her hand down on the mat as she fell, and she always jumped back up with the aid of a hand from her partner. Hatter began to relax again and enjoy the show.

The elderly man, whose picture was displayed prominently on the brick wall behind Hatter, called a halt to the exercise, and then directed the students to stand on the edge of the mat. His belt was almost grey, threadbare and worn. Hatter assumed that this was the Master, and made a mental note to ask Alice about him. Hatter leaned forward again, curious to see what was coming next. The class had to be nearly over.

The Master called out one of the largest men in the class, and paired him against a similarly sized man. They then began to fight, and fight hard. Aside from the men not punching to the face, Hatter found it hard to tell that this was just for practice. The Master stopped them after a short while, pronounced the bigger man the winner, and then directed another student to fight him. At the end of the fight the loser grinned at the winner and bowed. Just practice. This continued until he lost, then the new winner continued in the same way.

Hatter was fascinated. He was amazed to see how some of the smallest fighters could best the bigger ones by the use of leverage, speed, and skill. He wondered if he could learn, and if Alice would teach him. He was brought out of his reverie by the sight of Alice padding barefoot to the center of the mat. It was her turn.

Hatter clenched his jaw as Alice took a hard kick to her midsection, and fell back on the floor. He had halfway risen in his seat when she looked over at him and shook her head in the negative. He sat. She got up, nodded at her opponent, acknowledging a good hit. She suddenly looked more serious, determined. She circled with her opponent, patently waiting for an opening, found one, and knocked him backwards on his ass. She helped him up, and then they continued. Her opponent didn't manage to score another hit on her. Neither did the next opponent, or the next. Hatter smiled as he figured out why she had her turn so near the end of the class. She was good. Very good. He unclenched his fists and relaxed back into the chair. His Alice was a capable fighter, no wonder she thought she could take on anything.

After the class was released, Alice ran over to Hatter. She started to give him a hug, and then realized how sweaty she was and paused. He dimpled briefly, and instead gave her a quick kiss on the mouth.

"You are a little bit sweaty," he acknowledged.

"Yeah. It's a good workout," she said, smiling up at him.

"Alice, you were amazing. You are amazing. You don't suppose you could teach me some of that do ya?" he tentatively asked.

"Well, sure. But it isn't something that is quick to learn. I have been doing this for years," She stated.

"I kind of figured that part out," he smiled in response.

She ran to go change clothes in back, and then they headed back to the apartment she shared with her mother. That is, when her mother was in town. She traveled extensively, half the time it was as if the renovated warehouse was hers alone. Hatter walked her home, his left arm wrapped protectively around her waist. Although Hatter listened to her talk about her dojo, her class that night and her sensei, and even asked questions, he seemed preoccupied. Preoccupied, and in a hurry. When she asked him about it, he just said he wanted to get her home safe. Alice asked Hatter to come in after they arrived at her home. Her mother was out of town for a few days and she still wanted to talk with Hatter about his first day of work.

She made him a cup of tea, and told him she'd be right out after she showered and changed. She instructed him to help himself to anything in the kitchen if he was hungry, and hurried to the bathroom. She emerged twenty minutes later, freshly changed but barefoot with wet hair. She hadn't wanted to take the time to dry it with Hatter waiting on her. She padded into the living room and stopped in the threshold. Hatter was laid out on her couch, hat still on his head, fast asleep. She walked over to where he lay and pulled the hat from his head, placing on the table next to him. She went to the closet to find him a blanket, draped it over his still form, and turned out the light.


Chapter 10

Alice heard a scream. Heart wrenching and terrible, full of pain and rage. It was Hatter, in her living room, and he had screamed. Fear coursed through her, she leapt from her bed, running into the living room, slapping the kitchen light on as she ran. Hatter was sitting on her couch hunched over, chest heaving, his head in his hands, fingers clenched in his hair. She ran to him, dropping to the floor in front of him. She grasped his shoulders and called his name, trying to make him see her, and see if he was okay. His head rose, meeting her gaze and answering her desperate pleas for him to answer her. Tears ran down his face, and as his eyes locked on hers, she saw pain, fear, and terror.

He made a small sound and crushed Alice to him, burying his face in the crook of her neck. She didn't know what to do other than hold him. Her Hatter, her brave, cocky Hatter, was clinging to her like she was his lifeline. She felt his breathing steady, and then he pulled away.

"I'm sorry," he rasped.

"No, don't be sorry. What was it? Was it a nightmare?" she asked.

He nodded, embarrassed. They had been coming at him like this since Alice had crossed back over through the looking glass.

"I know it's not real. I know it, but they won't stop," he sighed, scrubbing a hand over his face.

Alice settled in next to him on the couch.

"It helps sometimes, if you talk about them," she said quietly.

Hatter gave a short humorless laugh, "I just try to forget them as soon as I can."

But here in the semi-dark, with Alice real and warm and safe next to him, he thought it might be worth trying. He had promised to tell her. Now was as good a time as any.

The Doctors Dee and Dum had worked on him for a while before March had shown up. They had done a number on both his body, and his mind, dredging up memories of his parents' death and twisting it. They made him see them die, made him see a lot of things. He didn't break; he didn't crack, although it was touch and go for a few moments. When the mental torture failed to get results, they had fired up the cattle prod. The quick bursts hurt, but it was nothing compared to when they pressed the prod into his skin and left it there until it began to burn his skin. He could still smell it, burning flesh, and his skin charring beneath the electrodes.

It had hurt. It had hurt so badly he thought he would go mad from the pain. He had to do something, say something to try to get them to stop. He spoke in riddles, trying desperately to hold in the only piece of knowledge he had that would hurt the resistance. And then came March, and March asked him a question that he wouldn't answer, couldn't. March had a knife, sharp, long, deadly. March was good with a knife, and Hatter knew he was about to die. He was bound to the chair, and he would die strapped to it, helpless.

It wasn't the prospect of dying that brought the tears to his eyes, one escaping to track down his face. It was the thought of Alice. She would be alone, with no one to save her. She would be drained of all that made her Alice and then discarded as a mindless husk, or she would lose her head. She would die, because he was not good enough, not strong enough, and not smart enough to get her away in time. He told her he would take care of her, and he failed. It was this thought that gave him night terrors. That he had failed Alice, and she would die because of it. He had gotten lucky and escaped, but it haunted him. And it hurt, because Jack was right. He wasn't worth her trust.

"No," Alice interrupted, "You have always done everything you could to protect me. Always. Even when I didn't think I needed it, and even when you were using me to help your people, you still tried to protect me."

Hatter winced as she mentioned him using her.

"Hatter. Look at me," she demanded, but he continued to look down.

"That was the worst, you see. That you would die alone and scared. And I was absolutely helpless to stop it," he continued as if he hadn't even heard.

"But I didn't. You escaped and so did I, with your help," she insisted.

He swallowed. He didn't think it would help to tell her. All this did was bring all the memories back to the surface, swirling together to torment him.

When he failed to answer her again, she pulled him into her again and held him there, stroking his hair. After a moment, his arms found their way back around her. Breathing her in, knowing it was over and she was safe chased away the last remnants of the dream. Talking about it wasn't what helped, it was Alice. His arms tightened convulsively around her, and then he released her, exhaling shakily.

"I didn't mean to fall asleep, Alice. I'm sorry," he said as he stood up, looking around blearily. "I'll head home, let you sleep."

Alice's small hand grabbed his wrist.

"Don't be silly. Stay. I want you to stay. It's already halfway morning anyway. Mom is gone for a few days anyway; I'd like you to stay," she argued.

"Honestly Alice, I don't think I'm going to get any more sleep after that one," he argued.

For the life of him he didn't know why he was arguing. She stood there in an over-sized shirt that came to mid-thigh, her hair loose and messy, waiting for his answer.

"So come to my room and talk with me until you fall asleep. I'll even let you lay on the bed, provided you keep some clothes on," she smiled at him, laughter in her voice.

I must be a masochist. I must be, he thought.

"Okay," he said.

She rummaged in her dresser drawer and pulled out a dark grey pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt. She tossed them at him, and told him she was going to go get a glass of water. He stared down at the clothing in his hands and shrugged. He laid his clothes over a chair in the corner after he changed and stood uncertainly, waiting for Alice. He laughed when he saw the large ceramic bunny sitting on her dresser. He thought it probably wouldn't stay in there much longer. Alice had enough of white rabbits.

Alice opened the door to her room slowly, she had given Hatter more than enough time to change, but she still didn't want to walk in on him. Yes you do, her mind argued. The sweatpants were short on him, so he had pushed them up above his calves, and the t-shirt was most definitely a little small. It didn't leave much to the imagination, stretching tightly across his shoulders and chest. She swallowed and tried to act normal, handing Hatter the glass of water. He took a sip and set it down, staring at her, his expression unreadable.

She climbed into her small bed and patted the blankets beside her. Hatter stared at her for a moment longer before joining her. She left the small lamp on as they lay there stiffly for a few moments in silence while Hatter settled himself in, and then flipped the switch off.

Awkward silence stretched out, until finally Alice had to break it somehow. His job, she wanted to ask about his first day.

"So how did it go at work?" she asked.

Relieved at her safe choice of topics, he began to tell her about James, the customers, his ideas to make it better. From there they ended up talking about the dojo, and how Alice had gotten started in martial arts. Before he knew it, Alice was snuggled up against him, her head resting on his chest, her arm draped around his narrow waist. He held on to her as well, tracing small patterns on her shoulder and arm as he listened to what had happened in her life to make Alice into Alice.

Her words grew slower, and more slurred with fatigue, the phrases had more pause between them, as did his. They had talked and laughed for hours, learning about each other. Learning about the little things, like how Alice loved purple irises. His voice had gone raspy with talking, and as promised, he was falling asleep. Before he allowed himself to fully sink into it, he took a moment to sear this memory into his heart. He never wanted to forget it. He pressed a kiss to her temple. He was holding his Alice, as he drifted off into a blessedly dreamless sleep.

A/N: I have a lot of hi-def screenshots, and one in particular kept tempting me to write about it. I didn't catch it in the movie, but in the screen shot showed Hatter's expression of such sadness, tears standing in his eyes, one trailing down his cheek after March says "Twinkle twinkle little bat." Andrew-Lee Potts is such a good actor.

I put a link to the pictures I mentioned on my profile.


A/N: This one is a little shorter…but I think the next chapter may run long. I hope you enjoy it, and thanks for continuing to tell me what you think with your reviews!

Chapter 11

Hatter blinked blearily as he looked at the unfamiliar ceiling above him. He turned his head to see Alice sleeping beside him. Carefully so as not to wake her, he turned to his side to look down at her. Her hair fanned out across the pillow, one hand was tucked in the covers and wedged under her chin. She looked different in sleep, younger, softer somehow. He slid out of the bed slowly, watching Alice for signs of waking. He smiled as a thought occurred to him, Can I cook, she asked. What am I? Helpless? Ha, I'll make her breakfast.

Alice woke to the sound of rummaging in the kitchen. Her first thought was that her mother was home early, followed quickly by the memory of Hatter crawling into bed with her. Blushing, she saw his clothing folded neatly over the back of her chair. She could not believe she had invited him into her bed. She looked down at how little clothing she had worn and blushed even harder. Hatter seemed to be able to break down all her defenses, when she was with him she didn't think, she just felt. What a change from her other boyfriends, with them it was just the opposite.

Alice slipped on some shorts to wear under the sleep shirt, and went to the bathroom to wash her face and brush her teeth before facing Hatter. She heard the whistle of a teakettle and a quiet curse from the kitchen; she wondered what he was doing in there. Creeping down the hallway quietly, she tried to see what he was doing without him noticing.

He was cooking breakfast. Still clad in her sweatpants and t-shirt, hair sticking up every which way. She wondered how he had ever managed to get it to lay flat. He looked as if he belonged in her kitchen, and he knew what he was doing. They barely knew each other, and yet here he was, making himself at home. She wondered what she getting herself into.

"Good morning, Alice," he said without turning away from the eggs he was scrambling on the cook top.

Alice jumped. How does he do that?

"Do you fancy some breakfast? I found eggs and ham and bread. It's nothing special, but I thought you might be hungry. Oh, and tea of course," he announced, dimpling.

"You cooked us breakfast?" she asked.

He paused, lowering the spatula and turning to look at her, brow furrowed, "Is that okay?"

"Yeah. It looks good. Don't burn the eggs," she said, trying for levity.

Her stomach hurt, knotting and twisting. She fought it, tried to ignore it.

Hatter dished out a serving for her, and then for him and they say at the table to eat. She wasn't used to drinking tea in the morning, but Hatter made it for her, and she did like tea, so she drank it. He kept sneaking sideways glances at her as she ate, until finally he set down his fork.

"What's the matter? You haven't said two words to me," he asked.

Alice shook her head, "Nothing, I was just thinking about things."

"What things?" Hatter demanded.

"It's nothing," she demurred.

"Alice, please. Just tell me," he implored, beginning to grow concerned.

When she just shook her head again, he began to get angry.

"I can't do anything about it if you won't tell me what's wrong. Did I do something?" he asked, trying to get through to her.

Alice forced a smile, "Of course not."

Hatter's jaw worked as he tried to rein in his temper and failed. He stood, picked up his plate and stalked over to the sink. He deposited his plate in the sink, and wheeled to face Alice.

"I thought we settled this already. Remember? We aren't supposed to play these bloody games with each other. When you sort it out, and you are ready to talk to me, you know where to find me," he growled.

He made his way back to Alice's bedroom and scooped up his clothing from last night. He had thought that he could finally begin to relax around her, that she wasn't going to panic and run away. Maybe he had asked too much of her too soon. He pulled off Alice's t-shirt and sweatpants, yanking on his own clothes.

He strode to the living room, deposited his hat on his head and headed for the front door. His step faltered when he saw Alice standing forlornly where he had left her in the kitchen. She had the strangest look of acceptance on her face, like she had expected him to leave. It was as if she was waiting for him to walk out. In a flash of insight, he knew what was bothering Alice. His anger dissolved, leaving him feeling helpless. He didn't know what to do.

Her lower lip trembled before she pressed her lips together. She hadn't meant him to see it, but Hatter had a way of seeing the smallest things. At that tremor, that smallest of indicators, he was frozen. He couldn't force her to see, he could just show her, prove it to her. Prove that she couldn't push him away, and he wouldn't leave her.

"Alice…" he entreated, his hands held open, like he was begging.

In a way he was…

She just stared at him, features flat and unreadable.

"Do you want me to leave?" he asked gently, determined to pull the truth from her.

"No. I don't know," Alice looked at the floor in misery.

"What am I doing? I didn't want to do this with you," she continued desolately.

He crossed the room to her in quick strides and grabbed a hold of her upper arms, "Do what? Look at me. Tell me. Please just look at me Alice!"

She did, and then her façade crumbled.

She stepped into his arms and held on tightly, "I'm sorry. I just saw you…and it was like you were supposed to be here, and then I started thinking that we haven't even known each other that long, and that I was jumping into something blindly, stupidly. I saw you, and had the thought that I wished I could wake up to you every morning, and I kind of panicked."

He held her as he murmured reassurances to her, "I am not going anywhere. I am here, and I plan on staying."

He was desperate to soothe her, it tore him up to see her so sad.

"You know, you could have just told me that you din't like eggs," he joked.

She giggled, as he had hoped she would.

Her face grew serious again, "I'm sorry. This..." she said gesturing between the two of them, "is a big jump for me."

"Me, as well," he admitted.

She smiled shyly, "but I trust you."

"Good," he answered as he pulled her into one of his intoxicating kisses.


A/N: I can't imagine Alice losing all of her emotional baggage so easily just because she found out her Father didn't leave voluntarily.

Note 7 Sep 10: Came back and edited my beginning chapters…I'm going to work my way through the whole story again and fix my 'new writer-isms.'