Hatter thought that he'd learned a lot about Alice in the short time he'd been in her world. He met her mother, and heard several fun, embarrassing stories about her childhood. He'd seen her in her classes at the dojo, and been impressed as she'd manhandled men twice her size. He'd watched her laugh with abandon, tossing her head back as he tickled her. He knew she was finishing up her education, and looked forward to advancing as a fighting master as well.

But it was four weeks after he arrived that he discovered that his Alice, his often serious, always stubborn, smart and sassy Alice, had an exhibitionist streak he'd never expected.

She might have kept it secret from him longer, had they not run into a friend of hers in the streets one day.

"Alice!" the other woman cried happily, giving Alice's name a strange inflection. Al-eese it sounded like.

"Maheen," Alice responded, hugging the stranger. "Maheen, this is my new boyfriend, David."

"Hi, David, nice to meet you," Maheen said kindly, shaking his hand. "Is he one of us?" she asked Alice.

To Hatter's shock, Alice flushed right to her pretty earlobes. "Um, no."

"No? When were you planning on sucking him in?"

"Pardon?" Hatter asked, interested in anything that involved Alice, himself, and sucking.

Alice stammered a moment, then said, "Honestly, it's only been a couple weeks, Maheen. It hadn't come up yet."

"Oh, sorry. Still using that as the true litmus test, huh? Are you coming to the hafla next weekend?"

Hatter's eyes went from one woman to the other, feeling like they were speaking a different language.

"Um, I hadn't thought about it, actually."

"You should come. You'll get rusty if you don't dance soon."

DANCE? Hatter thought.

"I'll think about it. See you later, Maheen."

"Bye honey, don't be a stranger!" The other woman waved as Alice drew Hatter away, continuing their path down the street.

Hatter kept the inquiring expression on his face until Alice broke. Seated in a corner booth at a local café, she quietly explained that some Oysters liked to study the history of their world, and sometimes they'd dress up in clothing from history, and gather for parties to share their studies and show off the activities they'd learned, activities common to the time periods of history they studied.

"So that's what she was telling you, that one of those parties is coming up?"

"Yeah, a hafla. It's especially for a certain time and place in history. Everyone there will have at least a basic interest and knowledge in the Middle East."

"Middle of what?"

"It's a part of this world, distant from here."

"And what did she mean about the dancing?"

To his pleasure, Alice blushed again. "For a while, I was going to these events and was dancing in the style of that place."

Hatter cocked his head. "So you can dance? Why is that embarrassing?"

Alice sighed heavily. "I can't explain, you'd have to see it."

"So? Show me."

She shook her head. "Later, Hatter. I can't do it here or now."

Hatter let it slide, planning on pouncing on her about it some other time. His Alice was hiding something, something that made her blush, and he HAD to know what it was.

Fortunately for him, Alice didn't intend to make him suffer the pangs of curiosity for long. That weekend, she showed up at his flat, the former residence of a 'Jack Chase' from whom one 'David Hatterly' had 'sublet', with a bag over her shoulder.

"What's this?" he asked.

Alice smiled. "I promised to show you the dancing we were talking about."

"And it needs…. special stuff?"

Alice sighed, and seemed to straighten her shoulders. "You have to see it completely to understand, to get the… full effect."

"Alright then."

She made him sit and wait as she put a music disc into the player. She fiddled with it, and then said, "When I tell you, hit Play." Then she disappeared into his bathroom.

It took several minutes for her to change. Hatter waited with growing anticipation. Finally, the bathroom door opened. He heard a strange clinking, and then Alice called out, "Alright, hit Play."

Obediently, Hatter touched the button, and the thunderous sound of drums filled the apartment. A sinuous horn sound came over the drums, a strange and sensual melody. Then Alice emerged from the bathroom, and Hatter's jaw dropped open.

She was wearing some sort of strange outfit, all in shades of blue. Over her arms and stomach it was sheer, a pale blue sheer material that shimmered and clung. Her bosom was clasped in some dark blue silky fabric, sewn with silver and crystal beads. On her brow sat some ornate silver metal circlet, and a scarf hugged her hips, covered in silver coins that made a shimmering sound as they moved and jangled. Loose dark blue pants were gathered at the ankles, and her bare feet slid across the floor. On her fingers, she had little metal disks that she clinked together in a rhythm that complemented the thundering drums.

But more amazing than her outfit was her movement. His tough, determined Alice undulated across the floor. Hatter had never seen anything like it, he hadn't even imagined anyone could move like this. His heart pounded with the drums as she danced, a sinuous, sensual motion, her hips rocking, her arms waving like snakes. She spun, her hair like a dark curtain swirling behind her, and when his eyes met hers, he saw she had a little smile on her face, a secret smile, like she knew exactly what her movements were doing to him. But the motions she made with her hips and her stomach amazed him. She could make one movement with her hips, while her shoulders and arms did something completely different, as if she was able to disconnect her spine. It was entrancing, it was engrossing, it was still very graceful and elegant, even as it inspired some very base emotions in him.

And Hatter was getting very warm watching his Alice dance.

With a final shimmer of hips and fingers, she struck a pose as the drums crescendoed to a stop.

Then she shattered the moment with a laugh, bouncing over to the music player to stop it. The sudden shift in mood left Hatter gasping.

"So, that's it. What did you think?" she asked cheerfully.

Hatter swallowed hard. "What do you call it?"

"Bellydancing. It's very popular. It's actually great exercise, good for your core muscles," she said, spreading her hands over her stomach. "It actually complements the karate really well. Both require strength and balance, and control." She pulled off the finger pieces, and the circlet, dropping them on the coffee table. "I was into it for a while, but when I met Jack, I stopped going to events and haflas." She gave him a funny look. "Didn't you like it?"

"Like it?" Hatter gasped. "I loved it! That was amazing, Alice! You were fantastic!" She grinned brightly at him.

"So, then, do you want to go to the hafla next weekend?"

"No!" Hatter yelped, jumping to his feet.

Alice frowned. "Why not?"

Hatter grabbed her and pulled her close, so that she could feel what her dancing did to him. "I don't want you dancing like that in front of anybody else! Great Kettle, woman! If other men see you dancing like that, they're going to want you too, and I'll have to punch them all out to keep them away from you." He ducked his head to place a hot, open-mouthed kiss just below her earlobe. "I don't want another man knowing you can move like that!"

Alice laughed, wrapping her arms around his neck. "Hatter, I've been dancing in front of people like that for a while now. And I'm not even one of the best dancers around."

"I don't care!" He kissed her hard, possessively, sliding his hands over her silk-clad back. "You're mine now, and I have to protect you from all the lust-crazed men who'll chase you around after seeing you dance like that."

She snickered in his ear before nibbling on his earlobe. "And what about you being all lust-crazed from it?"

"Well, that's alright," he gasped as she placed kisses down his throat. "Besides, you did it on purpose, and you know it."

Her fingers tangled in his hair. "Mmmmay-be," she teased, coyly.

Hatter growled deep in his throat, then bent to pick her up, bridal-style, and carry her down the hall to the bedroom. "Evil, bellydancing temptress," he accused her.

Alice's laugh rang through the apartment before Hatter kicked the bedroom door closed behind them.


end

AN: so, yeah, was listening to the ipod & DeadCanDance came on… which made me imagine Hatter's reaction to bellydancing. So I jumped over to David Macejka's "Poi for Gadje" and that was it….