Author's Notes: For Pouncer for fandom_stocking 2011 (yes, it has taken me a year to get around to posting it anywhere). Because I promised her Alice/Hatter and because she deserves lots of love.
There's a clock on the wall in Alice's house, and it ticks out the time, beat by beat by beat. Once it used to measure out the pulse of her life, organising it and compartmentalising it into little parcels of time, all of them filled with one purpose or another, regimented and rushing past. This time was the time to be at the dojo, that time to be spent with her mother. And most of the time allocated to searching for the thing she thought missing, combing through site after site after site, looking for a face with her eyes, her nose, her smile.
There was never enough time, though. Never enough minutes or hours or days, and so she doled them out, all of those single seconds, stingy with them as if time really was slipping through her fingers, each second wasted moving her a second further from her goal.
But that was back before Hatter burst into her life and set everything awry.
She has free time now, and she rolls the words around in her head, feeling how they sound, the shape of them, the seconds-hours-days stretching out before her, endless and yet to be filled. She misses her father, still, but the ache of it is muted, dimmed by that time and by that distance.
Even the clock on the wall is different now - it's not the heavy white-faced one from before, the one with severe, black Roman numerals sliced into its surface. That one was as grim-faced and stern as Alice herself could be.
The clock on the wall now is all Hatter. It's bright yellow and blue and green, the numbers lopsided, sliding down the face drunkenly.
Sometimes she swears she can hear them giggle.
There are red flowers in the foreground, and fluffy white clouds in back, and it's almost too cheerful to bear.
Almost. And yet...
Sometimes Alice looks at it and giggles, too, just because she can.
Hatter found it, of course, in some junk shop or on some bric-a-brac stall or other. Found it and hung it on Alice's wall despite Alice's protestations.
It's... odd, and that makes it strangely fitting for her current living situation. The hands are actually hands, right, burnished steel pointing cheerfully as the hours and minutes tick past. They sweep around, chasing each other - one fast, one slow, giddily dancing.
Sometimes they make her smile, too, with their jaunty little spinning. But sometimes, on those rare occasions now when Alice is left rushing from one errand to another, almost tripping over her own feet and with her face creased up with tiredness or with stress, when she glances at them, she could swear that for a split second the shape of the hands changes, the pointing fingers now rude and lewd.
When she looks again, the fingers are always back to demure and she'd doubt her own imagination if it wasn't for Hatter. If there was a way to make a clock swear, Hatter would find it. If there was a way to make a clock mirror her moods, Hatter would find that, too.
But it's the little mechanism below those hands that always catches her attention, no matter how she feels. It's a little metal message that pops up each time those hands sweep past the hour and it always makes her pause.
When Hatter's home she can guarantee that he will pop up, too, bang on time as the clock begins to chime. His face will be creased into a smile even if she is frowning seriously, and his eyes will be dancing as he pushes his hat further back on his head.
He'll make it a question, but the words will be the same as the clock's, or close enough. With one exception, the final word, the one that always turns her answer into a yes.
"Time for tea, love?"
It's the love that makes the difference, all the difference in the world.
And Alice will always have time for this.