A/N: This is another result of my challenge with Guardian_kysra. She also picked Alice and Hatter, but she left it up to me to choose which Alice and Hatter I wrote about and I chose to write about the Sci-Fi AlicexHatter because I didn't think I had it in me to write either the Johnny Depp Hatter or the Disney cartoon Hatter. The challenge to this one was Mandolin Rain by Bruce Hornsby, with no mentions of tea or tea parties.

I've never written in this fandom before, although I have enjoyed many of the offerings here. I would appreciate any insight anyone can offer me into what I've done wrong, and I hope I haven't gotten the characters too wrong for all that.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters and I make no money or profit from writing this.

After Her
by Em

"Listen to my heart break / every time she runs away..."
-
Mandolin Rain, Bruce Hornsby

His father had never been good for very much, but there was one piece of advice he had imparted when Hatter was just shy of 6 years old.

"Davie, m'boy," he'd said (this was before Hatter knew any better than to listen to anything his old man said and certainly before he knew the git had absolutely no intention of sticking around), "No one's ever gonna hand you nothin' an' if you find somefin' out there in that big wide world you want, you better not wait 'till someone offers it to you." He'd laughed. "Naw, Davie," he'd emphasized while rummaging in his mother's top dresser drawer (this was also before Hatter knew what his mother kept in there that his father would want so bad anyway) "If'n you want it bad enough, you gotta…" he paused, face intent as his hand moved, "Ha!" he exclaimed, removing his hand with a battered old sock, heavy on the bottom. He shook it and it jingled. He showed it to Hatter and grinned. "You gotta take it, boy," he said, patting Hatter's head as he walked out of the bedroom.

And that was it. (The only advice he ever gave him and the last time he saw him both).

If you want something bad enough, you've gotta take it.

It had become something of a motto of sorts.

And hadn't it served him well?

Well, it got him to where he was: owner (well, manager, if he was honest – the Queen owned everything) of the best Tea Shop in Wonderland with his fingers in all sorts of delicious little pies.

He'd lived most of his life living up to that motto. 'Course, he'd learned to be a bit more subtle about the taking part than his deadbeat dad had been, and maybe it had taken him a few run-ins with the law when he was growing up, but even those served as lessons.

Finesse, that was his game. Sometimes, people gave him what he wanted without even realizing they wanted it too.

He rarely had to chase after anything these days.

People brought him all sorts of goodies and with a word or two in the right ear, they usually brought him just what he wanted without him having to go out of his way to get it.

Yeah…these days, things usually came to him.

Like Ratty.

Ratty and Alice-Not-of-Legend.

Although, that was the last thing that just came to him since, wasn't it?

She came to him (was brought to him, really) and then everything went straight to shit.

Everything he'd worked so hard on building (the shell around his mushy insides included) toppled like a…well, if one could forgive the pun, like a house of cards, really.

The very minute she walked into his life.

(That shell around his mushy insides was the first to crack, in retrospect).

At the time, he hadn't recognized it. He'd been too amazed by the newness of an Oyster (and such a pretty Oyster at that) standing on his stoop (so to speak) after having escaped from a Scarab. At first, he hadn't been entirely certain he believed her story about escaping from the Scarab – Oysters just didn't escape from those things (at least, they never had before). But after a mere hour in her presence, he knew it to be the truth (not the least of which reason being that she had kicked Dodo's ass and handed it to him on a pretty little plate with what appeared to be hardly a lick of effort on her part).

She was something else, this Alice.

Her and her strength and the glimpses of vulnerability and her intelligence and her innocence even through her cynicism. And when she got past the not trusting him bit, they had some good times (if you didn't count the running for their lives thing, which, okay, he couldn't not count, and was it wrong that he still thought of them as good times?), and even though they argued all the time (even arguing with her was exhilarating about as much as she frustrated him, and really, that was a whole helluva lot) he still couldn't say that even the bad times were just bad times.

It didn't take long for him to decide he wanted her. He probably had from the moment she came back for him in the Library and then chewed him out after she had. By the time they were on the boat crossing the lake, he wanted her so bad he asked her to take him with her.

But she wanted Jack.

Now, normally, this would be the part where he'd start to work his charms…finesse her until she forgot all about Jack and agreed to run off with him where they could be alone and he could explore every inch of this fascinating Alice. But, faster than he could say Futterwacken, she was gone and he was left chasing after her again and what with one thing and another, he never did have much chance to finesse at all, did he? No...instead, he was left chasing after her...

Always chasing after her.

Always watching her walk (or, run, as the case may be) away.

Maybe not always from him, but certain from where he was and although it wasn't the same thing, it was damn bloody close and didn't do a bit of difference to his heart. (The fact that his heart became involved in the whole affair didn't surprise him as much as deject him. He had watched it happen to other sorry saps, but had never thought he would come to be one of the afflicted, and it was frankly, something he didn't like to think about much at all.)

He should have left her when he realized how different she was. Normally, he would've probably left way before then even, and Ring of Wonderland be damned. What did he care about the bloody Ring of Wonderland, anyway? It wasn't like he could give it to the Resistance since Dodo would most certainly have his head, and he wasn't stupid enough to think he could actually bargain with anyone in the White Rabbit or the Suits for the thing, not and live to enjoy whatever he got. It wouldn't really have stopped him even that he was- if Dodo were to be believed- a wanted man by both the Suits and the Resistance. Alone, he'd be able to disappear. No one knew Wonderland's streets like he did. If he didn't want to be found, no one would find him until he was good and ready.

He'd done it before, hadn't he?

And it wasn't like he would let a little something like a conscious keep him from running, after all. Because, honestly, even if he were the type to be ruled by a conscious, he had offered to try to get her home, but she didn't want that. (She wanted Jack). And it wasn't like this girl couldn't take care of herself (because, obviously, she could).

And still...he stuck with her (chased after her, even), because he couldn't lie to himself and even though every self-preservation cell in his body was screaming at him to run away, he still wanted (to protect, to be with, to help) her.

So, he stuck with her and chased after her, ever single time...

...except the last one.

He watched her walk through that mirror (be pushed through it, really) and didn't move a goddamn muscle.

Just stared.

Like a bloody idiot.

What was stopping him? He'd done it before (chased after her, not travel to non-Wonderland - what did one call Alice's world's anyway?), so why didn't he just do it again?

Why didn't he?

He looked up, understanding dawning in his expression, found Charlie's eyes on him, and noticed he had somehow walked all the way to the mirror and that it's gleaming surface was right in front of him, just before Charlie (bless his crazy little soul) pushed him right through.