(This is a work of fan fiction Alice In Wonderland is owned by someone else. These particular, (or peculiar) characters are mine, and are inspired by the originals. AU, contemporary setting, with a mid-life Alice, and how she relates to a hatter.)

Alice Wanders

"How many years do they give you for hattercide?" Alice said, sliding the tip of her knife slowly over the top of her scone.

"Be nice," Britt laughed quietly, taking a sip of tea.

Alice sighed, and stared at the reflection in the cafe window. There was a full grown man, dressed as the Mad Hatter, standing in the doorway of his shop across the street, doing his level best to look like he wasn't staring at her.

Alice sat her tea down slowly.

"Don't," said Britt.

Alice snapped her head to the side, and returned the stare. The hatter made a small, satisfying flinch, and Alice went back to her tea.

"You're a meanie," grinned Britt. "He's harmless."

"They're always harmless 'til they find the bodies in the backyard," said Alice.

"It's because you're new to the area," said Britt. "The novelty will wear off."

"And how long will that take ?" asked Alice, slightly turning her head, just enough for him to see.

He backed up into the doorway a bit.

"Oh, 'bout twenty five years," Britt said, sipping tea. "I probably shouldn't have told him that you like hats."

"Britt, what did I say about people asking about me?"

"To disavow any knowledge of your existence. .I know," replied Britt. "Why do you have to be so private about stuff ? People are going to think you're anti-social."

"I like people just fine," said Alice, "just not around me." She shot a look across the street. The hatter jumped, pulled a ridiculously loud handkerchief from his pocket, and began busily dusting the door of his shop.

"Stop tapping on that scone," said Britt, "do you intend to eat it, or just give it a migraine ?"

Alice was elsewhere.

"No... oh no. Alice, put it away. .people are staring," warned Britt.

"Don't care. Not having it," Alice said, staring at the reflection in the window. "He's still at it."

She folded her napkin neatly on the table.

"Alice, don't you dare...think of the children ," Britt said, as Alice rose slowly.

"What children?' said Alice.

"I don't know...I panicked," said Britt. She made a half hearted attempt to reach for Alice, then thought better, and slumped back, wondering if she had a decent dress to wear to court.

The hatter stood bolt upright as he watched Alice stride across the street toward him. Her face was a perfect mask of composure, which was tremendously frightening, but he had a secret weapon in his arsenal . He thrust out his hand stiffly, as though presenting the gift of a snake.

"HiI'mHenrypleasedon'thurtme," he said, gasping for air.

Then he trembled slightly, and sad puppyed.

And Alice was sideways.

He continued to hold out his hand. At length, Alice slowly took hold of it, and gave it a tentative shake.

"I have no bodies in my backyard, " he said, "I'm not that stupid."

Alice wanted her hand back.

"Joke?" he said. He looked a bit sad, and resigned for a moment, then he brightened. "You don't eat food , do you?" he asked, pointing over his shoulder .

Every fiber of Alices being was screaming at her to say something smartassed.

But here was a grown man in a Mad Hatter outfit... a shy, awkward kind of man, who was holding onto her hand for dear life, and simply asking if they could share a meal together. She took a breath, and began to open her mouth.

"If you feel like being assertive, I don't mind if you pay," he smiled.

Alice tilted her head, and considered whether to give him a B plus for sheer nerve, or the ability to retain a modicum of child-like stupidity . Still holding Henrys hand, she paused , then called across the street to Britt.

"Yeees?" Britt said, loud enough for everyone to hear.

"Henry and I are going over there for a while," Alice said, mimicking Henrys over the shoulder pointing technique .

"And what if I object?" asked Britt.

"Well, in that case, we'll just go anyway," said Alice.

"Fine. Be like that," Britt sniffed, in mock derision.

"Everyone I know is weird," Alice sighed at Henry.

"There's a lot of that going around," Henry said, nodding. "Are you going to give me my hand back?"

Alice hadn't noticed that after a while, she'd been the one holding on. "Oh, for heavens sake," she said under her breath, but as she relaxed her hand, he caught it up again, gently enfolding it. He leaned in a little, as if sharing a confidence. "Do you talk to yourself a lot? You seem to be the sort of person who really enjoys a good argument."

She couldn't clip him round the ear, because witnesses, and also she knew that he'd meant it as a compliment, so she simply took him by the shoulders, and faced him in the right direction.

He offered his arm.

"Well, here goes nothing," she said .

"Off to the races," Henry grinned.

"No Henry, nothing like the races.."

"Depends on how you look at it," he said, patting her hand.

"The next time I go to dinner, you're staying in the car with the windows cracked," Alice said.

"Oh, you brought the car?" he said, looking around.

"One foot in front of the other, Henry," Alice breathed.

Over dinner, Henry became rather adroit at dodging Alice's fork as he sampled bits of food from her plate, and they found that they had many likes in common, as well as many things they were secretly suspicious of, which is of course, the glue that holds most relationships together.

At the time of this writing, Alice, and Henry have been relating to each other in some form or fashion, for around six months, and have flitted around the edges of intimacy in the most embarrassing ways imaginable.

And Britt laughs behind their backs to their faces, because that's what friends are for.