Paprika and Amber

By Shahrezad1

Summary: To him, Alice is taste and color.

Disclaimer: I own nothing but the descriptions. ^^

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To him, Alice is taste and color.

That realization is truer than ever.

Back in Wonderland his office is stark, almost bleached, interspersed with small spots of pigment. He keeps himself from the tea that he sells and from getting his hands dirty. But Alice's place, her room especially, is earthy and cluttered. There are dashes of color and a mishmash of memories, handily placed at arm's reach and lovingly worn. In fact, the entire loft is like that and Hatter wonders if perhaps that's Carol's influence. For all that Alice is half the Carpenter, the other half of her is solely molded by her single mother. A mother who probably had to learn how to live again—breathe again—for both of their sakes.

It leads him to hope that he can hopefully do the same in this place, the realm he'd dreamt of for ages. Perhaps get a fresh start with the help of the Ladies Hamilton.

The last time he himself physically saw the world was somewhere in the seventies. The experience had colored his existence, an entire domain in contrast to the drab greys, browns, and navies of his world.

The side-effect of reliance upon teas, overriding the natural emotions of Wonderland's citizens, of course. After all, why think and feel for yourself when you can have your emotions bottled and purified?

He'd been influenced by what he saw that first time on the other side, in the Oysters' world. It had been his first smuggling run, and it wouldn't be his last, the thrill and novelty of it becoming an addiction of a different sort. Of course, his penchant for travel was curbed when the Looking Glass went under lock and key, but that didn't stop him from getting news and trading for Oyster articles whenever he could.

Which meant that by the time he got back to the Other Side things had changed. Twenty years had passed before he could blink, Time being its usual absentminded self and speeding right along. Vivid tones and big hair were exchanged for baggy clothes, odd "overalls" and an apparent apathy for esthetics.

It may have been his own age difference—no longer an optimistic youth, on his first adventure. He'd become jaded after being "recruited" for the Queen's own force, just as she'd done with Mad March. But while March's maliciousness had been tailored into an unstoppable malevolence, his Sledgehammer had come into being.

Perhaps after all that tinkering Time decided that he didn't deserve the seventies, or even the eighties (Hatter knew a few shop owners, mostly tinkers and the like, which had focused themselves on that decade in a flurry of leather and chains) moving along to the future.

But after the fact he was wondering if maybe it was something different.

All the Oysters he came in contact with were pale imitations of the vibrant people he'd long ago met across the divide. But Alice…she was something else. All blue and red to his orange and burgundy. Hatter had always been attracted to color, and she was a rainbow of pigment. That and her emotions—they tasted of sugar and spice on his lips. Saffron and cinnamon and nutmeg. And every now and again…cool mint and hot chocolate, all wrapped into one as she finally, finally hugged him. Soothing and numbing all the pain.

You couldn't help tasting them when you stood side-be-side, and he thought the trait would disappear once they landed back in the Oyster realm.

But…

It hadn't.

And it was more than that—there was something about her that he was just attuned to.

As someone from Wonderland, he could still sense other people faintly—bits of chili as the bloke at the motorcar place lied to him, and citrus from the librarian who thought him rather cute and bumbling. Until, that is, Alice walked up and all he could sense was her.

Warmth and marmalade and fudge on his tongue. Paprika auburns sparkling in her hair, plus the amber and olive of her eyes. Color and taste and…

Maybe Time hadn't been out to get him, but rather had brought about the end he was meant for.