Will you recognize me?
Call my name, or walk on by?
Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling
Down, down, down, down
The morning shift found him. He was a pile of loose litter, a mess of purple trousers and brown leather jacket, and a battered hat.
The shift foreman called the cops and an ambulance. The unconscious man was loaded up and taken away.
"Second one in two days," commented one uniform. "You need to get some better locks on this place."
"There was another mugging?"
"Some young woman."
He opened his eyes, blinked, and winced. The light stabbed at his eyes, sending pain shooting through his head.
"Easy there," a female voice said, and the light dimmed as she pulled the shades. "That better?"
He made a concurring noise. Peering up, he saw a blonde woman cross to the bed, and offer him a glass. He was confused by the strange stick poking out of the cup.
"Go ahead, use the straw. I'm sure your mouth is pretty dry," she encouraged. She wore strange pink clothing, shapeless and unattractive, which made her skin look ruddy, and her pale cropped hair even paler.
He craned up with his head, ignoring the glass to look around the room.
"Would you rather sit up first? Might bother your head," but he nodded, struggling to sit. She set aside the glass and did something, and to his amazement, the bed moved beneath him, lifting him up until he was mostly sitting, legs stretched out in front of him.
"That better?" He nodded, and this time took the glass when it was offered. He ignored the stick and sipped from the glass. The cool water soothed his throat, and he decided to try to speak.
"Where?" he asked hoarsely.
"County Hospital. You were found unconscious this morning, the building crew called Nine One One. The police will be by later to ask you about your attackers."
"Well, you were mugged, weren't you? Funny they didn't take your wallet."
He frowned, confused. "I don't know."
"You don't remember?"
"Huh. Well, don't worry Mr. Hatter, that's not unusual."
Now her expression turned suspiciously concerned. "Mr. Hatter? David Hatter?"
"I'm calling the doctor," she announced briskly. She left and moments later, returned with a tall thin man in a long white coat. He had dark hair, dark eyes, and dark skin.
When he spoke, his voice was heavily accented. "Well, good morning. I'm Dr. Anand. I understand you're having trouble remembering things, Mr. Hatter."
The man on the bed winced. "I'm Mr. Hatter?" he asked hesitantly.
"Why don't you tell me everything you remember?" the doctor prompted.
He bit his lip, thinking. There were fuzzy things, impressions only. He shifted, growing nervous. "I can't…. I don't remember anything. I don't even know my name." His eyes went wide with panic. "I don't know my name!"
"Please calm down. Fortunately, whoever mugged you didn't take your wallet. We have to assume, since you were found with only your clothes and wallet, you must have had something else on you they took – cell phone, iPod, that sort of thing." The doctor opened a drawer in a small table next to the bed, and produced a small brown thing with various colored things sticking out. He handed the items to the patient.
The man on the bed looked through them. The brown leather wallet had an identification card. He peered at the picture of an insolently grinning face, with pale skin, dark hair and dark eyes. The name read 'David Hatter'.
"This is me?" he asked, and the doctor nodded. He flipped through more things, a burgundy folder with another picture, indicating something about a united kingdom, a hard flat card with another picture that said Permanent Resident with a bunch of numbers across the bottom, and a green stripe across the back. In the wallet were a number of flimsy green and cream papers, and copper colored key to something.
"Does anything look familiar?" the doctor asked. David Hatter shook his head forlornly. "Well, you did sustain a pretty significant bump to the head. In these cases, memory loss is not unheard of, and it's also usually temporary. Why don't you relax, maybe take another nap? By the time you wake up, it could all have come back."
He agreed, because he could think of nothing else to do.
Doctor Anand came back hours later with two people in dark navy uniforms. The police man and the police woman were brisk and polite, and properly sympathetic. David Hatter still didn't remember anything about the attack or his past. He couldn't even tell them what city they were in, let alone why he was walking alone near a construction site. His frustration with the blank empty space he had instead of a memory showed on his face, and pretty soon the police gave up.
The woman considered him for a minute. "Mr. Hatter – Doctor Anand says that despite your memory loss, you're perfectly healthy, and could be released this afternoon. Your ID gives a local address – if you like, I can come back in a while and escort you home."
He gave her a crooked smile. "I'd appreciate that. Thank you."
A short time later, he stood and looked at himself in the mirror of the small restroom attached to the hospital room. The purple trousers and patterned shirt weren't like anything he'd seen on anyone else that day. The jacket was battered tan leather, and he frowned as he fingered it, wondering how he could remember leather but not his home, or where he grew up, or if he had family. He contemplated himself in the mirror.
He had wide set dark eyes in a pale face with a snub nose, topped with completely unruly thick dark hair. Scruffy facial hair made him look adult, but he felt young. Though both the nurse and doctor had to have noticed it, they hadn't said anything about the scars that crisscrossed his body, including several odd round ones on his torso that seemed newer than the rest. He was skinny, he realized. The clothes were loose, giving the illusion he was stouter than he was.
He placed the battered hat that had been found with him on his head, and couldn't help the small smile that crossed his face as he looked at himself. At least that seemed perfectly right. He thought he'd looked incomplete, until the hat. When he smiled, a dimple pulled in one cheek, and he decided he rather liked how he looked.
A knock on the door announced the return of the police woman. "Hi, Mr. Hatter."
"Hello," he said.
"Ready to go?"
"Yes, thank you."
She smiled. "You have a hell of an accent," she commented as they walked.
He looked surprised. "I do?"
"Yeah. I like accents. Most British accents I hear are the sort of proper London ones. Yours is more… raw. Authentic."
He thought about that. "It tells you I'm British? That's the United Kingdom?"
She looked at him seriously. "You don't remember anything at all, huh?"
He shook his head. "Nothing."
"Hm. Well, maybe your apartment will bring back the memories."
She drove him to a brick building of about five stories. He followed her in, and onto a lift. They rode up in silence, as he fiddled nervously with the hem of his jacket. He glanced down at his arm, and had a sudden flash – a vision of a small feminine hand in a purple sleeve, holding onto his arm. Then it was gone, and he sighed quietly.
On the top floor, the policewoman paused in front of a door and looked at him expectantly. "Oh!" he exclaimed, and pulled out his wallet. He produced the copper key, and she unlocked the door.
He walked into the apartment in shock. It was nicer than he expected. The kitchen area was all white and black, pristinely clean, with white cabinets, white tiles, and black countertops. A small set of table and chairs stood just beside it, made of dark wood. The rest of the floor was wooden, with a large thick green rug holding a sofa and armchair in dark brown leather, and a dark brown coffee table.
Windows overlooked the street on one wall, and the other wall bore half-filled bookshelves, and a television that looked nicer than the one in the hospital room.
"Anything ring a bell?" the policewoman asked.
"No," he admitted despairingly. There were no photos, no papers, nothing. Like the place was staged, waiting for an inhabitant. The only thing that looked out of place was a book on the coffee table. He picked it up. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland. He didn't recognize it at all.
The policewoman looked over his shoulder. "Huh. That's a children's classic, but no kids live here, that's for sure." She prowled around. "Looks like you're a single man, Mr. Hatter."
He watched her. She no doubt hoped for clues as to why he was attacked, but there was nothing here. She headed down a short hallway and he followed.
The bathroom matched the kitchen, all white and black, with white towels on the rack. He frowned at the bottle in the shower, popping the lid to sniff. He winced – that didn't smell like something he'd want to use.
In the bedroom, the large bed was made of the same dark wood as the rest of the furniture, with green bedding. The policewoman gave him a questioning look, and at his nod, she glanced in the closet, where several shirts and suits hung neatly.
"I don't know, Mr. Hatter. You don't seem the type."
"You don't look like a neat-nik. But this… this is obsessive." She waved a hand at the suits, each exactly hung at a uniform distance from the next. "Or you have a very good cleaning lady."
"I don't know," he admitted sheepishly.
"Alright. It's no big deal." She shut the door, and he followed her back out into the main room. "It seems safe, so I'm going to leave you now. Hopefully your memory will come back, or someone who knows you will check in on you. If we find out anything about your attackers, we'll let you know."
"Thank you for your help," he told her earnestly, and she smiled as she waved good bye.
He stood silent and alone in this place he did not recognize. He glanced down at the green carpet. For a moment, it almost looked like living grass, and then he blinked, and the illusion dissipated.
With a heavy sigh, the man called David Hatter went to investigate his cupboards.
In another apartment a few blocks away, Alice Hamilton rolled up her world map and put her battered childhood copy of Alice's Adventures In Wonderland into the hatbox.
"We'll have Chinese, does that sound good?" her mother called from the living room.
"Fine, Mom," Alice called back. Her lips quirked into a small smile as she looked at the classic drawing of the Mad Tea Party on the torn dustcover. I didn't dream it, she told herself. I couldn't have dreamed up him.
Come morning, David Hatter was even more confused. The clothes in the closet didn't fit him. The shirts were too broad, the trousers too long. Finally, in a dresser drawer, he found a white pullover shirt that fit reasonably well, and jeans that he could cuff.
The cupboards had been mostly empty. He'd gone to bed hungry. This morning, he'd showered, using the funny smelling stuff he decided he hated, and would replace as soon as he understood how. Then came the fruitless search through the bedroom for suitable clothing.
These can't be mine, he thought with rising panic. And if these aren't my clothes, then this isn't my apartment. But this IS where David Hatter lives, according to the cards in the wallet, and that IS my face on them!
The sensation of being molded, changed into someone he didn't know or understand, frightened him. Who was he before?
He sat on the bed and concentrated on breathing normally. He grabbed the hat, and his fingers played and fidgeted with it, twirling it, flipping it. The movements came without thought. Soon he was sending the hat dancing, rolling it down his arm, tossing it from one hand to the other, just letting the motions come without consciously thinking about them. Finally, he flipped the hat straight up, and it fell to land on his head perfectly.
With a long exhale, he felt better. He got his wallet and pulled out all the green pieces of paper. He counted the numbers, and discovered he had two hundreds worth of papers.
He decided to find food first, then clothing that fit. He had to be careful – he didn't know how to get more of the pieces of paper once he ran out.
He managed to get food at a small place that served it very cheaply. He discovered he didn't like 'coffee', but he did like toast a great deal. He parted with ten papers with a wince. Then he asked the woman serving him, where he could find clothing very cheaply, and she pointed him to a military building.
He wondered, as he looked at the red and white sign, why an army would be involved in selling clothing and furniture, but perhaps they were in peacetime and needed something to do.
Inside he found a few shirts that appealed to him and fit well enough, some black trousers, plus another pair of trousers in brown he thought would be alright with his leather jacket. What really caught his eye was a hat on the wall. A bored looking young man got it down for him. David toyed with the brim a moment. The charcoal fedora was heavier than his brown straw hat. In a moment, it came to him – his hat was a porkpie, this was a fedora. He wasn't sure how he knew that. Maybe I sell hats? he wondered.
In the end, he spent another twenty five pieces of paper.
On the walk home with his plastic bag of clothing, he glanced around at the shops. Many sold food ready to eat, but most seemed too expensive to him. Then he found a large shop that sold many different things. He marked where it was, so he could return once he dropped off his clothes.
The large store was a siren song of temptation. It sold food, it sold things to clean with, it sold strange little message cards, and paper things. It's a paper world, he thought wistfully. He tried to be extremely careful, choosing only food and absolute necessities, but he couldn't resist the black bottle of washing gel to replace the awful one in his apartment. He spent a long time staring at the razors, confused because none of them looked familiar. Eventually, he painfully handed over eighty pieces of paper, but consoled himself with the thought that he should be alright for many days with what he had purchased.
Alice found it easy enough to lie to her mother. She claimed to have caught up with Jack, gotten into a massive argument, made him admit he was actually engaged to another woman, and then stormed away. She didn't remember who mugged her, and expressed relief that the mysterious attacker didn't do anything worse upon discovering she had no money on her. Her mother was doing enough emoting about Jack's infidelity and Alice's lucky escape for both of them.
She'd been sore and tired for a day or two, but eventually she went back to the dojo. Her sensei had given her the days off without question. Alice found the routine of classes soothing, though she had new insight into the efficiency of martial arts. Still, she couldn't help sometimes remembering a certain man's wild scrapping technique, backed by a fist that could crush marble.
Alice wouldn't say she was pining… but she was, just a little. Everything about her farewell with Hatter had seemed uncomfortable, unreal, dishonest. Upon reflection, it had felt like everything he said was the opposite of what he meant. Which meant that his 'hell no' may have meant 'hell yes'.
But he was on the other side of a magical portal, and there was no going back. All she could do was live with her regrets, nothing new there. Sometimes it seemed like her life was nothing but one big regret.
She had a lot of time to think about it, now that she wasn't avidly searching the world for her father. When she lay on her bed and closed her eyes, she saw Hatter's grinning face, and remembered how warm he'd been in her arms when they'd hugged in the casino. How he'd fought with her without implying she was inferior or holding a grudge, or the admiring glint in his eyes she'd caught when she'd taken down the suit.
Several days after her adventure, she found herself crying quietly into her pillow. He could have been the One, she realized, and her regret and sorrow almost suffocated her.
He liked tea, he discovered. Any sort of tea, but some were better than others. It was easier too, to fill up on tea and leave off eating, but he rather thought that tendency might explain how skinny he was.
He'd gathered up the suits and shirts that didn't fit, and found another cheap clothing store called 'GoodWill', where they traded him his suits for clothes he wanted.
No one had tried to contact him, so he didn't know if he was wanted somewhere to work in any way. Maybe he'd been on holiday? He educated himself using the television, but even he recognized a lot of what he saw was just nonsense. When the weather was good, he spent all day outside, watching people, wandering aimlessly. He liked when he caught people's eye, smiling and nodding. It made him feel less invisible.
Loneliness grabbed him sometimes, in the night, making his breath catch in his throat. He felt utterly disconnected from the world. He had no past, no friends, no job, no purpose. If he were to die, no one would notice. The anxiety seized him sometimes outside as well. He had terrible urges to jump up on a bus-stop bench and shout Who am I? at the sky.
Reading helped pass the time. He read the Alice book, but didn't understand it. It gave him terrible dreams, of Queens and beheadings, an implacable enemy with a strangely featureless rabbit's head, a narcoleptic androgynous character, also strangely featureless, a room with grass and flowers instead of carpeting.
Sometimes he dreamed of a woman, as pale and dark as he, with blue eyes like the sky, fringed in black lacy lashes. He didn't know her, but he longed for her. Those dreams made him toss and turn, and in the mornings he couldn't remember anything beyond vague impressions of her face.
He'd miscalculated, and the expression of dismay on his face made the waitress take pity on him.
"Got a debit card? I can run that instead."
He shook his head with regret. "I'm very terribly sorry." He'd miscounted or miscalculated, and now he didn't have enough green papers for the food he'd just eaten. "Can I – work it off?" he asked.
The waitress pursed her lips. "Lemme ask Joe."
Joe turned out to be a massive man who cooked the food. He eyed David sourly. "Well… it's a bit old fashioned, but you can wash dishes. C'mon."
Minutes later, David found himself in a stained old apron, elbow deep in soapy water as he scraped and washed dirty dishes from the diner to pay for his breakfast. He worked hard as he grimly contemplated his fate. He was out of paper money. He had no job. He had no memory, so it wasn't like he could even find a job – he didn't know what he could do. He'd come to understand at that some point, he'd need to pay for his apartment. He wasn't sure when that would be. He'd been living second to second for more than a week now, and he was just about at the breaking point.
Joe apparently noticed when David harshly scrubbed a pot for the third time into shining like stainless steel after the lunch rush had gone. "Whoa. What's your problem, kid?"
Haltingly, David explained. Pretty soon, Joe and Jeanie the waitress, the owners of the place, were shaking their heads sympathetically.
"That ain't right, just releasing you from the hospital like that. Healthcare today, I tell ya," Joe said disparagingly. "You probably didn't have an insurance card on ya, so they tossed you out as quick as they could."
Jeanie suggested, "Aren't there programs and things? Down at City Hall?"
"Maybe," Joe thought about it. "Tell ya what, David. I can't afford to put you on payroll, but tomorrow morning, you come in here. We'll feed ya breakfast, and then after the morning rush is gone, Jeanie here can run you down to City Hall, see if there isn't something they can do for ya."
David grinned in thanks and relief.
She really tried. That morning, Alice woke up and vowed to herself to forget about Hatter, and Charlie, and Wonderland altogether. It was gone and lost, and she was never getting them back. She lifted her chin as she looked at herself in the mirror, and told herself there was no use crying over spilled milk.
She recited a number of similar clichés that day, until she got to the dojo and became absorbed in her classes.
A flurry of movement caught David's eye as Jeanie walked with him towards City hall. He glanced up at a second story, where wide bay windows showed people in funny white pajamas going through specific movements. "What's that?" he asked her.
Jeanie glanced up. "Oh, that's a karate studio. Or… judo? I'm not sure what it's called. It's a martial art studio." At his confused expression, she said, "It's a fighting style, from the far east."
David looked back up again, in time to see one person toss another over their shoulder. It caused a sudden flare in him, one of those strange visions. Instead of people in white pajamas, it was his dream woman, in blue, tossing a man in black over her shoulder. He shook his head, startled. Those visions had been fading, becoming less frequent as he gave up trying to remember anything about his lost past, resigning himself to this half a life.
Jeanie led him to City Hall, and left him in Human Services. He waited, talked to some people, waited some more, and then was eventually told that someone would contact him.
He was un-gently hustled out of the office, and he scowled a little. That had been useless. Walking back home in the afternoon light, he stopped to stare up at the martial arts studio again. He couldn't see much, but what he saw was interesting.
David sat on a bus-stop bench across the road, and just watched the people practice their martial arts until the sun set.
Alice hoisted her duffle onto her shoulder and waved goodnight to her Sensei in the office at the back of the dojo. Her last class had finished and she was done for the evening. Alice smiled to herself. It had felt good to lose herself in the classes and the forms. She'd gotten in a great sparring session with one of the other black belts, and the challenge of facing someone as skilled as herself had fired her up.
She checked the weather with only a glance out the bay windows, before bounding down the stairs. Emerging onto the street, she instinctively gave her surroundings a fast scan. She looked up the sidewalk, across the street, eyes brushing over the bus-stop, and down…
She looked back towards the bus-stop, and the lone figure seated at the end of the bench.
"It can't be," she breathed. Tan jacket, purple pants. A battered tan hat perched on top of unruly dark hair. His face was turned up to the windows of the dojo. She hurried to the corner to cross the street, approaching the seated man from an angle.
Hope leapt up in her heart, as Alice cried, "Hatter!"
Turning at the sound of his name, he watched the woman run towards him with surprise. Startled to realize she looked a lot like his dream woman, he stood to meet her.
With a cry of joy, the woman launched herself into his arms. Since waking that day in the hospital, he hadn't been touched by a single person. The feeling of a warm body in his arms, pressed against him, made him gasp.
"Oh, this feels good," he muttered, not even sure he knew her, but swamped in the delight of human contact.
She giggled in his arms. "You always say that!" She tightened her grip. "I can't tell you how happy I am to see you." She stepped back and smiled up at him.
His eyes devoured her face which was pale and heart-shaped, with big eyes of sky blue fringed in lacy black. Her dark hair formed a shining curtain. Her face filled in all the gaps of his dreaming mind, and he realized suddenly that this was the woman he'd spent his nights yearning for. But who was she?
"I – I–" He reached for a name, but couldn't grasp it. "I know you. But… I can't remember you!"
"Hatter? What do you mean?"
Helpless, he asked, "What's your name?" His hands still rested on her arms, and he felt his grip tighten with his frustration. "I know you – I've seen you in my dreams for a week. But… I don't remember you, I don't remember anything."
She looked terrified for him. "Hatter… I'm Alice."
"Alice. Alice." He repeated it to himself, imprinting her on his virgin memory. "You're Alice. I'm… Hatter? Like the book?"
She giggled, this time more nervous and hysterical. "Does this look like a kid's story to you?" She said, like she was offering him something.
The phrase bounced around in his head. He could almost hear himself saying it. "I read that book, it didn't make any sense…. The book! The book was on the table, it was a clue!"
"Hatter, you're scaring me."
He let go of her, stepping back. "I'm sorry."
"No, wait. I mean… you really don't remember me?" A note of dismay and sorrow crept into her voice.
He sighed, fidgeting with his jacket hem, a habit he'd developed. "Eight days ago," he began, "I woke up in a hospital bed. I have no memory before that day." He watched her take in this information, shock filling her expression. "I had a wallet, and a passport, and a permanent resident card. And the clothes on my back. And my hat." She smiled a little at that. "And a key to an apartment where…." He hesitated, and then whispered confidingly, "where none of the clothes fit me. They weren't MY clothes, I don't think."
He took a chance. "I read the Alice book, and afterwards I had nightmares. And when I don't have nightmares, I dream of … a woman with blue eyes and dark hair, smiling at me." Her expression turned soft and affectionate at that, and he felt relief. "I'm out of green paper. Today I went to City Hall for help, but they just said they'd contact me."
"Hatter…" Alice reached out and took his hand, lacing her fingers through his. She stepped close again, and leaned her head against his chest. Daring, he rested his cheek against her hair. Her warmth and her closeness were intoxicating. She took in a deep breath, as if inhaling him. "You are still my Hatter. A little lost and battered maybe, but still Hatter. C'mon, we'll go to your apartment and see what we can figure out."
He nodded and led her through the streets. As they walked, he kept stealing glances at her, and at their joined hands.
"Do you always call me by my last name?" he asked.
She looked up at him, confused. "As far as I knew, that was your only name."
"Oh." He frowned. After a beat, he said, "David. David Hatter. That's the name on the cards and things."
Alice frowned. The building Hatter led her to was the same one where Jack had lived. But instead of Jack's third floor apartment, Hatter led her to a fifth floor. She wondered if maybe the building was owned by the Resistance.
Inside, the place seemed hollow. Empty. Certainly it didn't contain the casual clutter of Hatter's tea shop office. Nor the bright colors.
"I could… make us some tea, if you like?" Hatter offered sheepishly.
"That would be great." She looked around as he filled a kettle. After a moment, she turned to see him watching her. "What?"
"You've never been here before. Right? You don't know this place?"
"I don't," she admitted.
His expression turned frightened. "I knew it. I knew something was wrong here." He stepped back from the counter, eyeing it like he expected it to suddenly attack. "None of the clothes fit. The wash gel in the shower smelled wrong. No food, no tea in the kitchen. This isn't my home. This isn't my LIFE!" His voice got louder and more frantic, rising to a shout by the end.
"Hatter!" Alice rushed to him to grab his arms. It terrified her to see him like this. This wasn't the Hatter she knew at all. This man was lost and frightened, nervous and uncomfortable. Her Hatter was cock-sure and confident, even when he was in danger. "Calm down, please! It's alright."
"How can it be alright? I don't even know how you know me." His breath hitched like he wanted to cry.
Alice drew him out of the kitchenette and over to sit on the sofa with her. She kept a tight hold of him, and it made her heart ache to see him look at her like she could explain everything to him. But she had to try. "Hatter… David. I'm going to tell you some things that are going to sound… crazy. Just bear with me, hear me out, alright?"
He nodded, and she launched into the tale of how they'd met. He listened, confused often, making a face when she described the City, looking embarrassed when she talked of their first meeting.
He only interrupted once. "I was a drug dealer?" he asked, aghast.
"It's not really like that, it's…. yeah, sort of." Hatter looked humiliated. "It's alright though. That's in Wonderland, not here." She went on to talk about the Great Library, and Dodo. He looked shocked when she told him he'd taken a bullet for her. Then the escape to Tulgey Wood, and meeting Charlie. How they'd rescued her from the Casino, and then how she went with Jack, and he followed, and they got captured again.
When she told him she thought he'd been beaten up, he stood abruptly. "What?" she asked, but he walked away to the bathroom, pulling at his shirt. When she caught up, he was frowning at himself shirtless in the mirror. Alice could see the scars on him from countless fights, but he was poking at one of several circular burn scars on his torso. "Oh, god," she murmured.
"Electric prod. Is that something you've heard of?" he asked, and she nodded, her fingers covering her mouth. "I had nightmares about….two identical men, using electric prods on me. And a man with a white rabbit's head."
"Mad March," Alice breathed. "Oh god, Hatter. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I got you into the whole crazy mess, and they hurt you…" she couldn't keep the tears from falling down her face.
He gave her a wild look of amazement, that she'd be apologizing to him, and then he wrapped his arms around her. Pressed against his bare chest, Alice shivered at the feel of his warm smooth skin. "Shh, not your fault, Alice love," he whispered. The instinctive affection and protection in his voice surprised them both. He let go quickly, but Alice threw her arms around his neck before he could back away.
"Don't," she said quickly. She couldn't help but to pull him down and kiss him.
He moaned softly into the kiss, his hands sliding around her waist to hold her close again. Her fingers tangled into his hair as she mapped his lips with her own. When they finally parted, they stared into each other's eyes.
"We're… we're together?" he asked.
"We are now," she told him. "I think… I think we were always meant to be." She blushed. "That was our first kiss."
"Oh." A bright grin pulled at his cheeks, flashing his dimple at her. "I'm glad. This way I'll remember it."
Alice laughed. At least some of the essential Hatter-ness was still in there.
Back on the sofa, Alice finished her tale, and David could hardly believe it. But she was so serious and so detailed, it had to be true, as incredible as it sounded.
"So, I'm not actually from here," he stated, and she agreed.
"I can't think of how you got the paperwork and the key unless someone helped you get set up here, but that doesn't explain why you lost your memory. Except…" She frowned as she worked something out in her head. "I was unconscious when I landed too. I also woke up in the hospital. But the Queen's suits went back and forth without any problems."
He made a face. "I'm not a Suit am I?"
"No… and maybe that's the answer. Maybe there's something about being a Suit that makes it easy. Jack remembered his life in Wonderland, I'm sure, but then he's a Suit. He was the Jack of Hearts."
David chewed on his lips, and suggested, "Maybe that Jack kicked me out of Wonderland."
"Why would he do that?"
"Because you turned him down." His smile turned wry. "For me. Maybe he let me go through the Looking Glass knowing I'd lose my memory. So I'd never find you."
"But you did find me," Alice pointed out.
"Luck, I'm afraid. Sheer luck. But you said I was a tea dealer. I could be a wanted criminal now, if Jack made the Teas outlawed."
Alice shook her head. "No, I don't think so. Lots of Suits saw you stand by me in that last confrontation with the queen. I mean, you threatened her with a switchblade! That's kind of heroic."
He blushed at her words. "Still, at least I now know how I lost my memory." He smiled at her shyly. "And I have you."
"That you do," she confirmed, and she leaned towards him to kiss him sweetly.
He shivered as their lips met. This was new and sweet and wonderful, and though he still wanted his life back, at least now he wasn't alone. He had this beautiful woman to help him.
When they finally separated, he asked "What do you think we should do now?"
She frowned as she thought about it. "I think, maybe, we should try to go back to Wonderland."
"Yes. If this is Forgetfulness tea, then it can be reversed. Or maybe all your memories will come back as soon as we get there, and then we can figure out a way for you to keep them when you come back."
David looked at her for a long moment, wondering what sort of person he had been, to win the loyalty of a woman so brave and beautiful and strong as Alice.
Alice left him alone that night in the not-his apartment. Her idea that someone in Wonderland had provided him a key made sense; this wasn't originally his home, it was his new home. That thought made him a bit more comfortable in the place. She promised to come to him in the morning, and they'd try to find a way to Wonderland.
They staked out the warehouse construction site where Alice believed the Looking Glass was located, and decided their best option was to wait until Friday evening, after all the workers were gone for the day.
Alice still worked most days in the martial arts studio. He would wait for her to get done, and then she would walk to his home, and they would spend the evening talking together. She showed him how to cook various foods, things of her world he would not have thought of. She also found out that he could collect something called Unemployment. She made those arrangements for him, though it would be some time before he saw any money.
It made David uncomfortable that Alice paid for so much for him. She bought him enough food to get through the rest of the week, including a new tea that brought tears to his eyes, it was so delicious. But when he protested, she simply smiled and kissed him, and said she wanted to take care of him, as he had taken care of her.
Finally Friday night arrived. Alice led him to the warehouse. At her suggestion, he had on exactly the clothes he'd had in the hospital, and for some reason the sight of him made her grin.
"That's my Hatter," she'd said, and he'd blushed at the look in her eyes.
Alice had declared she would go prepared this time, and wore jeans and a shirt and had a jacket of her own of black leather, plus boots. She also had a small bag across her shoulder, which she said contained 'essential supplies, just in case'.
They approached the site, surprised to see new fencing and locks.
"Damn it," Alice swore, glaring at the padlock.
David peered at it, then asked, "Do you have something skinny… like a pin?"
With an intrigued look, she handed him a hair pin. David held the lock in one hand, the pin in the other, and closed his eyes. Then, without thought, he opened his eyes, and briskly picked the lock.
"How did you do that?" Alice whispered, impressed.
"I don't know. I just knew."
Alice smirked at him. "Is it bad that I find your criminal tendencies utterly sexy?" He blushed at her playful leer.
Inside the building, they quickly found the Looking Glass. To David, it appeared to be nothing more than an enormous mirror.
Alice walked up to it cautiously. David couldn't restraint his gasp when she reached out one hand, and pressed it through the mirror's surface.
"It's active!" she exclaimed with glee. She turned back to him, and offered him her other hand. "Let's go." When he hesitated, she gave him a warm smile. "Hatter… trust me, please. I believe this will help." Something in her smile turned humorous. "It's perfectly safe… safe-ish."
For the second time, her phrasing echoed in his head, and he guessed she was quoting something he'd said to her in the past.
"Right, then," he said with a deep fortifying breath. He took her hand, and let Alice lead him through the Looking Glass.
To Be Continued