Warning: Chapter rated T+/M- (I'm really bad at deciding a rating) for suggestive themes and intense make-out.

TWENTY-FOUR
His Favorable Ending

"Ahem."

Hatter had stopped dead. That little cough had splashed ice over his tender moment. Alice, however, seemed less disturbed by the reminder. He only needed to catch a glimpse of Carol's reflection in the mirror to understand that she was shocked, confused, maybe a little peeved…

Alice turned her head toward her mother, who was already speaking. "Care to explain?"

"Yes." Alice rested her forehead on his chin and he didn't move but to hold her as she explained. Because he sure as hell couldn't think of a damn thing to say. "This is David…we've known each other from a long time ago."

"Oh. Good. Then you don't just make-out with complete strangers." Carol snapped. "Who the hell is he and why didn't I know about…" She motioned up then down at the pair of them and Hatter kept his eyes on Alice. Angry parent. New kind of scary. "…this?"

Alice gently pulled his arms from her waist and he allowed her to move him behind her. Really, he was just a puppet for her to control at the moment. Completely useless. "It's fine, mom, we have a…history." Carol crossed her arms. "I…he was moving away. He was going to leave so we didn't pursue anything. Now, he's back and I don't know…seeing him again just…well." Alice looked at her mother, who did seem to be calming down, a bit.

"And Jack?" She asked. "You were chasing after him just last night—"

"To give him back his ring." Alice said. "I was breaking it off with him. It just wasn't working. Then I found out David was back…" Hatter didn't comment on their excessive use of the name 'David.' A part of him wished he had come up with some fake name. At least then he wouldn't have to live with the one he had given up on.

"Then why not just tell me? Why didn't he say anything at the hospital?" Carol was looking at Hatter now and he opened his mouth but nothing came out.

Alice stepped in, thankfully. "He probably didn't know how much I had told you. He was leaving it up to me to talk to you. Like I had asked him to."

Carol shook her head. "This…this is unbelievable. I've never even heard you mention him and now…what? You're in love with him?"

Alice didn't reply right away. She looked down and he felt that a pause was better than an abrupt denial. He watched the back of Alice's head.

When Alice went from a pause to blatantly not responding, Carol seemed intrigued. "What? Really? This man I've never even heard of?"

Okay, he was missing something. Alice must have been giving her some sort of look, because he couldn't see her face and he knew Alice hadn't said anything. Did she? No, he would have heard a pin drop. Alice hadn't said a word, but her mother seemed to understand.

Alice took in a deep breath and he saw her raise her head to look at her mother again. "Yes."

Yes what? Yes…she was in love with him? Was he following this right? Women were terribly hard to understand. Bloody females and their…secret codes…the only thing that kept him from speaking out to clarify the situation, was the fact that Carol was still in the room and he wasn't capable of producing sound.

They seemed to share another look and then Carol seemed over her anger. "Alright." She stepped forward. "Okay. We can talk about this later. Fine?"

Alice nodded. Then Carol sent a glare at Hatter that nearly had him backing away. She walked to the door and began to pick up her purse and jacket.

"Mom, what're you doing?"

Carol fixed her coat. "Oh, I'm going to Heather's. She had invited me the other day, but I cancelled to be here with you when you got home."

Alice took a step away from Hatter now. "But you made dinner. You don't have to leave."

The last buttons of her coat were done and then Carol raised an eyebrow at her daughter. "We will be discussing this later." Then her tone lightened. "But for now, the food's ready. You know where the plates are. Catch up. Talk. You both look like you need it." Then Carol was shutting the door behind her. Hatter breathed normally for the first time since stepping inside.

Alice rubbed her arms, obviously thinking about her mother. "You okay?" He offered. And now his voice was working. Must have been Temporary Muteness…it's a real thing. Happens around angry mothers.

She sighed and he could see from the distance in her eyes that she wasn't fully present. "Yeah. Fine."

He nodded. Feeling a sense of familiarity and less tension now that it was just Alice, he looked around the room. It was like everything he'd come to experience so far. He recognized things, chairs and couches and such, but then there would be something off. Like too many clocks in the room and all of them reading the same time. Or a large screen next to a wall, like the monitors the Suits would use only bigger. They seemed to be almost a recreational thing here. When his eyes fell back on Alice she was picking at the side of her shirt. All his life he had never known what it was like to care about a parent, Alice seemed to care a great deal about both of hers.

He was just about to speak when Alice turned to him, eyes focused now. "So." She gave him a real smile, clapping her hands in front of her gently. "You're here."

"That I am." He grinned.

She laughed. "Yeah. I just…so, what? Are you staying?"

"Oh." He rotated the hat in his hands. "Yep. I, uh, sort of have to. Part of the…I dunno, rules apparently."

"Rules?"

"Long story. Are you…okay with me staying? It would be sort of on a…permanent basis…" He gauged her reaction and was happy that she didn't look angry. Quite the opposite.

"Really? You mean…you're here to stay?" She stepped toward him.

"If you like." Then he rethought those words. "Actually, even if you don't. Can't go back. At least, I wouldn't be able to any time soon. Not…that I want to. I mean…" He froze.

"Why?" She looked at him and then shook her head. "I mean, why did you choose to stay here? Give up your home?"

"Isn't it obvious?"

She blinked. "No."

He laughed. "Really? You don't know? I thought-I thought I'd been a bit obvious."

"Obvious?"

"Alice." He stopped walking when his shoes bumped her sneakers. "It wasn't a choice, coming here. I had to."

"Why?"

"Because you…are here, Alice." He looked away now, bit self conscious at the moment. "I dunno, when I saw you leave I just couldn't…I couldn't stay. I…" He was losing his nerve again. "I…well, you know…" He tried to force the word from his mouth, but it clung to the tip of his tongue stubbornly.

"Yes?" She prompted.

"I'm getting to it." He groaned. "You know, this is so much harder than people think…" He sighed. "Right. I suppose I'll just say it. I am…" He motioned to her, "…in love with you."

Alice shook her head. "What?"

"Yep." He popped the 'p' again and that made her smile. "Sort of…maddening…really. Love's not all it's cracked up to be, but yeah, so far as I can make out I'm rather hopelessly in love with you." He let out a breath. Once the word had left his lips, it seemed much easier to say.

"But…" She seemed perplexed and she pushed her hair out of her face absently. "But when I asked if you wanted me to stay you said, and I quote, 'hell no.'"

"Did I?" He shook his head. "Must've been…someone else-okay. Yes. I did say that, but I thought you had wanted Jack and, well, didn't want to come off as the desperate loser—"

"You're not a loser."

"Yeah. I know that. I said I didn't want to come off as a loser…" He smiled.

"So you're here to stay?"

"I believe I have already answered that." She did not look amused. "Yes. I am here to stay." He amended quickly.

"And you're in love with me?"

He broke their eye contact. "Rather hopelessly, I believe was the proper phrase, yes." There was silence then, a nice silence. He was close enough that when she inhaled her sweater brushed against his jacket. And when he finally looked back into her eyes she was frowning, nose and forehead scrunched. "What?" He brought a hand to his face, like there might be something on it.

"Your hair." She stated. "What'd you do to it?"

He brought his hand down over his bangs, all stuck and plastered to his forehead. "Oh…Jack suggested it. Said I looked 'too flashy' and would stand out. Had to keep a low profile." His eyes followed her hands, like they carried some sort of weapon, but she only placed a palm on either side of his head. "What you doing?" She didn't answer, but brought those long fingers up, pulling his hair on end. She worked her hands around his head, pulling and clawing, and his eyes nearly closed with the sweetness of it. Transfixed, he then stared, rather openly, into her determined eyes when she reached for his hand to take the hat he still held, then she set it on his head gently.

"Much better." She said, pleased.

"Yeah…" Her face was close now, almost nose to nose. He was leaning down and she looked up. He smirked then, feeling daring and, frankly, a bit more like himself. "So." Cheeky grin and all. "Did I understand that right, earlier?"

"What?" She shrugged, forcing the act that she had no clue what he was talking about. Oh, but Alice wasn't the actor there.

He titled his head, eyes narrowed and he brought her face up to his again with the side of a finger. "Don't remember? Just…" He pretended to think about it, "…maybe three minutes ago, your mother asked you a question." She swallowed and he liked that he was making her antsy. Liked that he could just make out her pulse racing where his finger held her chin. "I don't believe I caught your answer."

Alice sent him a steely glare. "Are you going to make me repeat it?" Her teeth were clenched.

"Oh yes." He whispered, just above her mouth.

"This kind of thing is really…difficult." She breathed. "As I said, I've had a hard time with liking people."

"Well, if I understood the conversation, which I do believe I did, this isn't so much about liking anyone. Besides, I'm the one who said it first. So, it's not weird." His grin was devilish, and he nearly started laughing right in her face when she pursed her lips so defiantly. Hearing her say it would have been nice, but then it wouldn't have been the same without her stubbornly refusing to admit it.

If she thought a kiss would deter him she was…right. Her hands shot forward, grabbing the lapels of his jacket as she pulled him flush against her. The smirk and his fun could wait. Right now, he had a very bossy woman to obey. Earlier, her touch had been a whisper, so light and sweet. Now she was screaming. His head tilted and his hands went from holding her face to squeezing her waist, pulling her closer when there was really no room to do so. She parted her lips, opening and closing with each new kiss and he mimicked and it didn't take long to coax those delicious murmurs up her throat.

At some point, his hat had fallen off. Most likely when she grabbed the back of his head: kneading and pulling and scratching. Incidentally, this was mere seconds before her back hit a wall. Breathing through his nose, he tore himself away, trying to play the gentlemen. He took a moment, hovering and using all his willpower not to just press forward and kiss her again. "I should…we should probably stop, yeah?" Their escalation was on a path he didn't want to deviate from, but it was the responsible thing to do. Damn his new found morals…

Alice tilted her head up. "Probably." But her eyes were dark and his jacket was falling to the floor, her face moving forward as she pushed it from his shoulders. He was kissing her again before he could think to question.

"So…" He didn't even bother moving away this time. He spoke directly into her mouth as he hooked a finger around the button on her sweater. "…anytime you want…to stop." She flicked the sweater from her arm where it had stuck. "…your call…"

He traced knowing fingers up her sides, pushing the edges of her tank top and reveling in the sensation of her skin.

"Just a second…" She panted. "…just…in a second…"

Then she was wrapped around his face again, arms pushing him downward as she pulled herself up. "So…" He managed to catch her by the legs, holding her in place and pinned to the wall. "Completely up to you…I'm not complaining." He smiled into her and he could feel her grin. And he didn't actually realize that even now, he couldn't seem to keep his mouth shut. Always been a problem.

"Did you…w-want to?" Her head dipped backward, neck arching against his mouth.

"Not in the least."

Alice looked down, her position against the wall giving her a higher vantage point. She held either side of his head. "Bedroom's at the end of the hall—" She nearly fell, her whole body whipped sideways sharply. She giggled.

He was almost to her room when his boot hit a step he hadn't been expecting and they both nearly went down. He winced, but managed to catch himself with a hand on either side of the hallway. "Oo," She looked at him, his body bent down where she was pulling it with her weight. "Yeah, there's a step…"

"Found it. Thanks." He caught his breath. "Probably could've mentioned a mite sooner."

"Sorry."

Alice was holding onto his neck. Her legs were firmly wrapped around his middle. His hair was sticking in every direction from the path of her fingers and his lips might have been bruised. "You know what? Doesn't matter." Given the situation, he'd be mad later. He didn't get to look around the room, she could have had a hit list pinned to the bookshelf or a dartboard with pictures of puppies speared through, for all he paid attention. Alice set her feet down on the floor, kicking off her shoes as they moved backward. Her hands tore from his hair and she had him by the shirt, swinging him around with the force she had probably used when fighting Suits. Her leg swung out and caught the back of his, and he was landing back first onto the mattress.

A part of him remembered a dream he had had once. Similar in theme. Alice had that same look in her eye then and she brought her legs up around his waist just as before. Only he wasn't sitting in a chair this time and that hadn't actually been real. This, however, was real and with no possibility of waking up too soon…

In hindsight, they should have known Carol would have returned at some point. If they had been thinking it might not have been so awkward when they had torn through Alice's room trying to put their clothes back in order. She tossed him his shirt and he got tangled in her pants before realizing they weren't even his. They weren't even the right material. When all that was left was to adjust his belt, he quickly did the fastener and grabbed for his hat, his hair resting in place around the brim and looking less groped and wonderfully normal.

Carol had the good grace to act as if she knew nothing of the haphazard clothing and the fact that both their coats were lying in the middle of the floor. He threw on his jacket, rushed through a good bye, and didn't even want to know what her mother would do when she found dinner untouched. He was already nearing the front door when Alice ran to stop him.

She bent down, kissing him again and murmuring softly. "If you must know…" She moved her lips along his cheek, resting on his ear. "I do love you, too."

"See, I knew it. I knew I had heard right." He grinned, elated.

"You really do talk too much." She whispered. His jaw snapped shut. She smiled and kissed him again. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Tomorrow…" He frowned.

Alice sighed. "Let me talk to my mom, alone. Give me a few hours…then I can go to…" She frowned now. "Where are you even staying?"

"Oh, Jack's apartment. Gave me the key." He held it up, just a lone key for the only thing in this world he had that needed one.

She nodded. "See you in a few hours then." She pulled him into another kiss, letting this one last just a bit too long, hands beginning to wander. She didn't bother with a goodbye, they'd only have to kiss again if she did, so she spun on her heel and shut her door behind her. Hatter strolled into the street, much more embracing to this whole new way of living. More open to the tons of people and cars, as he now knew, that raced along the streets and did not like when you cut them off. He thought it might be fun learning how to drive one. Alice would be okay with it, since it was on the ground.

When he reached the street that was now his, he understood that he would have to learn about more than driving. This was a new place, a different world, and since Alice was a part of it, he would have to learn to be a part of it too. It would be a challenge, but he had survived worse and there was so much to look forward to.

A family, maybe. A proper one where people trusted one another and deserved that trust. Alice was his family now and that had never sounded so appealing. For once, the word didn't come with bitter resentment. Hatter had achieved what he had never thought he could. Overcome so much. And now he was getting his reward. He never thought he could deserve it. It only existed in stories. The conclusions of fairy tales and heroic fables. A hero's end, not the end for the man who simply passes the hat…But that wasn't true anymore. He was the hero now. This was it.

This was his happy ending.

THE END

A/N: I've decided that if I do continue on with any more, I'll make it a new story, a sort of sequel to this although it might just be a collection of one-shots. Hope you enjoyed it had a lot of fun writing it... (expect this last chapter. Endings are really hard...) So yeah, this isn't exactly rated M. I had a picture in my head for the one scene, (the stripping/trying to stop) part and this is what came of it. Not exactly how I pictured, but I hope I conveyed it right. The last few paragraphs are rubbish. I can't wrap things up properly. My endings are always weaker than the story, but you know, something I need to work on I guess. Plus, this whole bit from the Looking Glass scene on is just falling action and it's hard to make that carry on this long. Hence my stopping. I thought Alice would have trouble saying the words "I love you" out loud, she seems to have relationship issues and that doesn't just go away, even if she is willing to be with Hatter long term and blah blah. Okay. So this story is officially completed, yay me. Thank you to all the reviewers and all the people who followed it for...wow, it's only been like two weeks...anyway, thank you for reading! ^_^

P.S. This Chapter was called, "His Happy Ending" meant to reference the last sentence. But with the warning before hand...and all the make-out stuff...I didn't want people to get the wrong idea because of the double meaning...with happy ending...or maybe I just have a dirty mind...yeah...