A/n: Dunno if I'm as happy with this as I thought I would be… oh well, hope you enjoy.
When she was younger, her father had read her Alice in Wonderland. While the images, the ideas behind the story had always stuck with her, she hadn't really been that big on reading it herself. It confused her when she read it, and not long before he disappeared, she had claimed herself – in that typically childish, headstrong way that some children have – too old to be read to. She had thought herself far too mature to need to be read to like a child. After all, soon she would be a big girl. Double digits.
The Perfect Ten.
After her father vanished, it had felt wrong even opening the old and battered copy of the bizarre book, though she longed to walk through the strange world yet again. She feared that if she did… well, it wouldn't be her father's voice reading it. She was afraid that she wouldn't be able to remember the voices he created for each character. That his voice would slip further and further away from her mind's grasp, and be lost forever. She thought that she wouldn't be able the remember what it felt like to have her head against the rumbling of his voice through his chest as he held her in his arms as he read it to her, letting her trace her fingers over the pictures inside. And so the book had lain in her room, the cover worn but the pages inside never again touched after that day. She had often imagined that they would still smell of him. She'd never watched any of the films that where released, she never bought another copy. She lost a little bit of her childhood that she so treasured, for fear of losing it, quite the contradiction. In time she even forgot the story behind it.
But since coming back from Wonderland… finally laying to rest the hurt of losing a father, and seeing for herself what the world was like, she thought that maybe it was time to re-read the story.
See how it tallied with the mad, terrible, fantastic world that she had seen. See the characters as they had been seen originally.
As she read further, she recognised characters – many somewhat more likeable, or at least less deadly than when she met them – and little details that she remembered from her time in Wonderland. And more importantly it was her father's voice reading it to her after all, despite her fears. His dramatisations, changes in voice to suit each character replaced those of the people she had actually met, and suited them far better, she thought.
Well… all except one maybe.
The book vanished from her grasp, leaving her blinking at her empty hands for a moment. "Funny, I thought I had a book here a moment ago," she mused sarcastically, before leaning her head back on the arm of the couch to look at Hatter. It was rather worrying how easily he could sneak up on her when he wanted to. Or maybe she had just been more engrossed than she thought.
Keeping a thumb in the book to keep her page – he knew better than to piss her off. He'd happily ride in on a horse against twenty suits (for the right cause that is) but an angry Alice? That was not something he wanted to try again, especially after the last time… his ego was still wounded, among other things… - he studied the front cover.
"Hmm… I think this certainly captures the Queen quite well," he grinned, a glint in his eye as he showed her the front cover with the ugly, big-headed, red-nosed caricature of the Queen of Hearts.
Alice smiled, "Definitely." However, the smile only grew when she thought of something.
Hatter noticed, and thought that he didn't like that smile. That was a scary smile, and he didn't like it.
And he certainly didn't like the way she was biting her lip to stop herself laughing.
"What? Why are you looking at me like that?"
She just kept looking at him, not trusting herself not to laugh if she opened her mouth.
"Seriously, what is it?"
"You…" she had to stop, taking a calming breath to keep it in, "You might want to… have a look at the page I was… just reading."
Still obviously confused, and not just a bit scared of her look, he opened the book, still holding it as he had when he snatched it off her, he looked at the pages she had been looking at.
For a moment, Alice wondered if she should move out of the way, since he looked about ready to drop the book, and it was still hovering over her face.
He did not, thankfully, drop it, though his mouth opened, gaping in a rather comical way, finally breaking down the barriers and letting loose the floods of laughter, though she continued to keep the same winning smile on her face.
"Anything wrong, Hatter?"
"I… what… just… but… I do not look like that!"
Alice threw a hand to her mouth, trying to contain the loud sniggering that was forcing its way out of her. She moved out of the way, making room for him on the couch, but he didn't seem to notice as he turned around and sat on the arm. Or rather, he would have, had he not misjudged the distance and sat on the seat anyway, his legs over the arm and his head on Alice's lap, quite reversing their previous situation as she now looked down on him.
"Are you okay?" she asked carefully, trying to keep the humour out of her voice.
He looked up at her, and incredibly hurt look on his face. "What have they done to me Alice? They've… I don't look like that, do I? Please tell me that's not what I really look like."
She smirked at him, pretending to consider, "We-ll…. hmm… There is your nose…" the act was lost when he started patting his nose, trying to see it by crossing his eyes. It just showed how much the Queen of Hearts' rule had changed him, made him guarded and jaded, and now that he had the freedom to be himself here, the tension in him had vanished and had thrown into sharp relief just how different the fight had made him. He was now free to be a little more mad, and a little softer around the edges than the guarded man she had first met. She couldn't keep up the joke at the look he was giving her now.
"I'm only teasing," she kissed his nose, and quickly his self confidence was back in place.
Perhaps a little too quickly.
As he grinned at her, she realised with a start he had been playing her just as much as she had played him.
"You 'onestly think I ain't seen this already Alice? I spent years 'elping the resistance, and I spent hours in the Great Library. 'Ow'dya think I knew you meant when you called it a kids' story?"
She rolled her eyes, "Fair point..."
"Still… not so keen on how you lot see me. Quite hurt, in fact. Bloody Oysters, making me look like a creepy ol' man."
"Guess it must have been the stereotypical Hatter back then. And Brits are meant to be renowned for their teeth."
"Hmph, I'm nothing like a stereotype, thanks. Well, aside maybe for the Mad part, but that just comes with the territory. Can't live in Wonderland long without a bit of madness.
"And they got one thing right."
"Uh," He affirmed, winding a strand of her hair around his fingers, "You hair does want cutting."
He really should try and remember his own advice when it came to not pissing off a certain Alice, was all he thought as he tried to keep as much space between him and those vicious tickling hands.
All Alice could think was that there was one voice that wasn't read by her father any more. No, Hatter was one who's voice was all his.