AN: but see, even if Alice still calls Hatter 'a friend' after that kiss, and rides off with Jack, and everything else happens in canon…. I have to believe that kiss would be enough to change the ending. This idea kept me up the other night.
Watching the surface of the Looking Glass ripple, Alice caught a glimpse of a familiar hat in its reflection.
"Hatter!" she cried, turning back, turning away from the path home to jump down and charge at him.
Hatter wove his way through the crowd, and Alice only gave him a second to brace himself before she flung herself at him, trusting him to catch her.
The grunt he made as he caught her was part pain, part surprise.
She smiled. "I knew you'd make it." She was confused when he set her down at arms length.
"Yeah, well, I was.. trying not to think about it." She didn't understand. "Anyway, I wanted to say… goodbye."
"Goodbye?" The word hit her in the gut like a blow she forgot to block. There was something wrong in his expression, guarded, distant. Like he'd taken a defensive position.
"And… if you, you know, ever fancy coming back…" he went on.
"You want me to stay?" Alice asked eagerly.
"Hell no!" he said with just about the phoniest laugh she'd ever heard. "No, you – I think you should go home."
"Hatter…." She couldn't understand why he seemed determined to shove her away, especially after he spent the last few days trying to get close, so close she'd let him give her the Kiss of the Century, as her gleeful girly heart of hearts insisted on labeling it. He loved her, she knew it, he'd told her in that kiss. Why couldn't he admit it? Now, when she could literally turn and walk away out of this world, he chose to behave like every other man she'd known? Even Jack? A well of bitterness opened up in her and she took a step back from him. "So it didn't mean anything after all."
Hatter blinked, not following her. "What?"
"You were just taking advantage, using me. I thought…" her voice dropped to an angry hiss. "I thought that kiss meant something, but I guess not."
He jerked like she's slapped him. Then his eyes darkened with anger in return. "Yeah? How about the 'just a friend' bit? How about I come here and find you in the clinch with Prince Poncy-pants there?"
"Do you think Jack would have let you walk away back there if I'd told him what you really meant to me? I had to get him to take me to my father! And just now, that was just a hug, nothing more. You've got some gall getting jealous over a hug! I hugged Charlie too, you going to get all bent out of shape over that?"
"It looked like more than just a hug from my vantage point."
"Yeah? Well maybe you need to get your eyes checked. From where I stand, it looks to me like you got exactly what you wanted all along."
"I don't want to argue about this, Alice! We'd be here a month fighting over who used whom!" Hatter snapped back.
"Hey, you volunteered your help, buddy. I didn't ask for it. Don't accuse me of using YOU."
"If I hadn't helped you, you'd be brainless and barefoot on the casino floor right now!" Their voices kept getting louder and louder as they fought, with the entire crowd of Oysters, Suits, technicians, White Knight, and future King staring at them.
"Oh really?" Alice scoffed. "I can think of two or three instances of mortal peril I would NOT have experienced without your so-called help."
"You are the most impossible, stubborn, infuriating woman I have ever met, do you know that?"
"Why can't you just man up and ask me to stay?" Alice nearly shrieked at him.
"Because I didn't actually think you'd want to!" Hatter shouted back.
"Of course I'd want to, you idiot, I've fallen for you!" Alice actually stomped her foot in anger, he drove her so completely crazy.
"Well, I love you too much to keep you here, it's too dangerous even now." Hatter's mouth snapped shut when his own words actually reached his ears. He flushed red in embarrassment, clearly never intending to declare his affections in quite so blunt a manner.
Alice had frozen at that one word herself. "Oh." she said in a small voice. A faint tittering of laughter went round the room.
"She's gotta be from New York," she overheard one oyster say lowly to another.
"Alice? I think perhaps you and Hatter might want to finish your… disagreement… elsewhere." Jack suggested, though his proper tones poorly masked his laughter.
"Come with me," Hatter said, taking her hand and drawing her out of the Looking Glass hall. He wordlessly led her along a ledge, into another building, and up a flight of stairs, until they came to what looked like a wide open abandoned warehouse floor. He dropped her hand and turned to face her, stalling a bit by removing his hat and running his hand through his wild hair a few times.
For her part, Alice just waited. He'd used the L-word. She waited for her usual reaction to kick in – the nervous denials, the need to flee, the smothered feeling. None of that happened. Instead, she felt…. freed. When she realized that, she started to smile.
Hatter gave her a suspicious look. "What?"
"You love me?"
He straightened like he was about to face a firing squad. "Yeah. I do."
She grinned. "Good. I love you too."
"Oh. Okay." He relaxed, and for a moment they just looked at each other. Then Hatter burst out laughing. "Cracked kettles, woman, does everything have to be a battle with you?"
Alice shrugged. "You bring out the best in me, I guess."
His expression turned warm and fond. "You certainly bring out the best in me." He reached out to draw her to him, molding her against his body from toes to chest. She snuggled into the heat of him, the solid feel of his body thrilling her. She tipped her head back to smile up at him for a beat, before he ducked his head to kiss her at last.
Alice had to resist popping her foot like some movie cliché, but part of her brain did cartwheels, cheering hot damn the man can kiss! Those perfect cupid's bow lips sealed themselves to her mouth, and his tongue! Well, Alice gained a close personal relationship with Hatter's tongue. She looked forward to an even closer relationship soon. This time, Hatter's kiss promised all sorts of things she really wanted to savor – not just love and devotion, but the passion and want. She hoped he could feel all those things in her kiss too. He promised her a lifetime of love, and laughs, and arguments, and shared triumphs, and she wanted it all, forever.
They parted with a soft wet sound, sighing into each other. Hatter rested his forehead against hers, and it amused her a little to see he kept his eyes closed. Really, he was too adorable.
Finally, he leaned back a bit to look at her properly. "Now what?"
She quirked an eyebrow. "You mean, besides finding someplace we can lock a door?"
He chuckled. "After that."
"Oh…. I'll probably want something to eat."
"Alice!" He hugged her tighter, pressing his face into her neck as he laughed. She wriggled her arms into his jacket so she could run her hands up his silk-covered back, and he groaned a little at the sensation. "Fiendish woman," he accused her as she snickered. "I meant…. your world or mine?" How he managed to make that question sensible and not suggestive, Alice would never know.
"Oh!" She paused. "There's my mother…"
"Fair enough. Will you stay with me an extra couple of days while I sort things out?"
Hatter shrugged. "Assets… sell the shop… pack some hats… that sort of thing."
Alice's jaw dropped a little. "You… You'll come to my world? To live?"
"Of course." He frowned a little. "Alice, now that I have you, I don't ever intend on losing you again. Even if you run off, I'll come after you."
"Wow. And somehow, you made that sweet, not stalker-ish."
He grinned cockily. "I'm irresistibly charming, you'll find."
"And creepy sometimes. With the circling and the leering and all," she pointed out, recalling their first meeting. "But I think I'll keep you anyway."
"Okay–" Alice drew the word out, thinking fast. "I think… I think we should talk to Jack about keeping our options open."
"Well, right now I still live with my mother. You can't move right in with me, we'd have to find a place. And I've had a dose of Wonderland, but you've never been to my world. I think Wonderland is actually easier."
He gave her a skeptical look. "Somehow I doubt that."
"Hatter – my world runs on pieces of paper. Thousands upon thousands of pieces of paper. I think… well, lets not burn any bridges until you see if you even like my world."
"Why would we have to burn a bridge? I thought the Looking Glass just opened up into your world, no bridges at all?"
She couldn't help it, she leaned against his chest and giggled helplessly. "Oh, Hatter, you are going to be so lost in my world. This is going to be really funny."
"I never pegged you for mean, but you seem to be looking forward to my future fumbles far too much." His hand drifted to her side to tickle her through the velvet coat, and she laughed harder as she squirmed in his embrace. When she threw her head back to beg for mercy, he captured her lips again in another knee-weakening kiss.
This time, he made a few pointed suggestions with his kiss that she completely approved of. Never parting, he drew her in staggering steps towards another exit. "Tea house," he murmured against her lips.
"Quickly!" she answered.
He nodded, jamming his hat back on his head. He took her hand in his, letting their fingers twine together. "Remember, look at me. Don't look down."
"No problem," she told him with a grin.
Together, they ran through the precarious streets of Wonderland laughing.
Last AN: so, that didn't actually come out at all like I thought it would when I was lying awake with insomnia last night. I had expected something far more dramatic, but Hatter and Alice insisted on arguing their way into their confessions of love instead. I can't believe I wrote this in 2 hours flat.