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Holding Infinity by alyse [Reviews - 22]
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Category: Alice (SyFy)
Characters: Alice Hamilton, Hatter
Rating: R
Genres: Character Study, Episode Related, Established Relationship, Romance
Warnings: None

Summary: Hatter takes to her world like a duck to water, a fish in a pond, and somehow it's Alice who's now out of her depth.

Pairing: Alice/Hatter



Story Notes:
For Temaris, who fell in love with Alice, just as I did. And thanks go to Temaris for the beta, as well.

Vague spoilers for the end of Alice.


-o-

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

-- William Blake

-o-

Hatter takes to her world like a duck to water.

It shouldn't surprise her. Time passed so quickly on the other side of the looking glass, even if every second seemed magnified, stretched out and never ending. But even in that too brief time he's proven himself to remarkably adaptable: smart and tenacious and a lot braver than he believes. Nothing about him should surprise her, or maybe everything should, but...

But time passed so quickly, and each second burnt bright and fierce, almost blinding her with its brilliance; it's no wonder that she's still not sure where Hatter ends and 'David' begins.

Her mother sees David, that sweet, polite young man who followed Alice into a building when she didn't come out again and, in the process, saved her. She doesn't see past him to Hatter, the one who saved Alice for real. Sometimes, Alice is grateful for that, that her mother is blinded by Hatter's brilliance and the tales he spins and weaves. Carol already has her doubts about David - honest, sincere, non-threatening David - and how far and fast Alice is falling for him.

She can't see that Alice has already fallen for Hatter. Fallen hard and landed on a concrete floor, and it knocked the sense right out of her.

-o-

"Why David?" she asks. It's dark in the womb of her room, and the words slide over his skin where her mouth brushes along his temple, his cheek.

"Why not?" She can taste his smile, the amused tilt of his eyebrows clear even in the dim light spilling from the hallway. "Nice trustworthy bloke, David."

"Is it you?" she whispers and he stills, his fingers resting on her waist, brushing along the skin where her t-shirt has ridden up. "Is it your real name?"

"What do you think?" and this time it's a murmur, his lips trailing down over her neck. She's a teenager again, listening out for her mother coming home so that she can still play the innocent when she's anything but. Not in this.

"I think you're Hatter," she says, and her fingers tangle in his hair.

-o-

No, not a duck, she thinks, watching as he once again charms her mother. A fish maybe, darting here and there, a flash of silver in the water before it's gone, hidden in the currents along the bank.

He's certainly slippery enough for one.

There are papers to acquire, and things to find, and stories to spin, and Hatter - David - juggles them with as much verve as he balances his hat on his fingers, twirling it all around and around until she's dizzy from it.

He doesn't drop anything once, not a hint or a clue or the act.

"Dual nationality," he says to her mother with a smile, and he has the passports to prove it. "British mother, American father... you know how it goes."

Alice doesn't know, just like she doesn't know where he got his birth certificate - David Hatton, it reads, nice as pie. It's the same as the name on both passports, but it's not the same as the name carved deep into her heart. But it doesn't matter when Hatter smiles at her, his eyes crinkling around the edges and his heart clear in them. Then she smiles back, helplessly and hopelessly, head over heels and tumbling downwards.

Hatter takes to her world like a duck to water, a fish in a pond, and somehow it's Alice who's now out of her depth.

-o-

But her mother can't be dazzled forever, not even by Hatter and his ability to spin and to juggle.

"David..." Her mother stops and bites her lip, worrying at it like she worries about Alice, even now. "He seems very nice..."

"Nice." There's an inflection in her voice that she doesn't quite catch before it slips out, and her mother - with a mother's intuition - is too quick to grasp it.

"Isn't he?" Quick as a whip, that's her mother, and just as fierce sometimes. It's not her father's steel that Alice has inherited.

"He's... he's more than nice, Mom, okay?" And her mother smiles again, at Alice this time, and rolls her eyes.

"I know, I know. I worry. So sue me. It seems so... sudden. I mean, first you bring Jack home and then..."

"And then," Alice says with a smile. And then the world changed and she woke up to reality, a world that was filled with Jabberwocks and Borogroves. And Hatter.

"And then there's David." Her mother's voice is indulgent now, but the worry lurks underneath, still, a thread that ties them tightly together.

Then there's Hatter, Alice thinks, but what she says is: "Jack... Jack was a prince, all right. It just happens that he wasn't mine."

There's love in her mother's eyes, love and resignation. "And David is?"

Hatter, she thinks again but again she can't say, not without raising questions she has no idea how to answer. Spinning yarns is David's - Hatter's - forte, not hers. Never Alice's. Except: "I'm not rushing into anything, Mom. I promise."

Carol stares at her for long moments that stretch out like taffy, sticky and tempting. There are worlds at play in her eyes, as dark in their way as Hatter's. But Alice won't be drawn in, not this time. She holds the silence, and her counsel, and Carol snaps first. She reaches up and brushes Alice's hair from her face, the way she did when Alice was a child, and something in Alice clenches and then loosens.

"I know," Carol says. "You're too smart for that. You always have been."

"You raised me right," Alice teases but while her mother smiles and tuts, turns away, Alice thinks of ledges and forests, lakes and trees, flying high in the sky with her cheek pressed against Hatter's back. It felt good not to be smart for once, in Wonderland. It felt good to live in that moment; the one where she finally believed that if she were to fall, someone would catch her.

Hatter would catch her. In Wonderland.

-o-

Hatter laughs and laughs and laughs when he finds out that oysters are considered an aphrodisiac in her world. He laughs so hard that he literally falls down, landing on her bed with a soft thud.

She stares down at him, frowning. "It's not funny," she says, except that of course it is, the idea that something from an oyster, just a plain, grey oyster, could cause passion and lust and excitement in both worlds, even if the source isn't exactly the same.

She wonders sometimes if it's that something inside her - inside her oyster shell - that made Hatter fall for her, follow her home. Pheromones or hormones. A sight or a smell or something else entirely. Something that's about the what of her, not the who. But then Hatter pulls her down onto the bed beside him with a wicked little smile, his hands slipping with ease up under her skirt.

She pushes herself up onto her elbows, her face flushed and her heart beating pitter-patter rabbit fast at the look in his eyes.

"What are you doing?" she whispers and it comes from somewhere deep inside her, like rich, dark chocolate, all twisted up with need.

He pauses and his smile this time is full of teeth, sharp and white, his dimple a shadow in his cheek. "Looking for pearls," he says as he pushes her skirt up higher, settling between her legs. Her pantyhose are pulled down, almost reverently - they're too easy to tear otherwise, as Hatter has already learnt to her cost - and then his mouth is on her skin.

His breath tickles and so does his tongue as he traces upwards, swirling in patterns and shapes that make Alice shiver. She slides her fingers into his hair and it's shorter now than it was in Wonderland, where she missed her chance to do this and where Hatter was Hatter, no just as shivery doubt about that.

He finds what he's looking for - he's good at that, is Hatter - and his tongue teases her open, ferreting out that small bud of nerve endings that make her twist and pant with pleasure. He flicks his tongue, just right - just perfectly, wonderfully right - and then captures it, tugging gently with those white, even teeth.

She comes apart in bright, shimmering shards and his name tumbles from her, spilling past her lips when she can't hold it in.

"Hatter!"

He brings her down, landing her gently, feather soft like the feel of his hair still tangled in her fingers. When he kisses her, the scent of her is on his breath and on his skin, seeped into him.

She slides her tongue over his lips, tasting herself and tasting him, and lets him pull her closer. She noses his cheek and whispers, "David," against his skin.

-o-

David really does work construction. In a twisted, topsy-turvy way it makes perfect sense, a lie within a truth within a lie, with pieces of paper and taxes and a social security number to hold it all together. He works on the skyscrapers that are still springing up in the city, even in the recession, which means he spends his time high above the ground, walking the scaffolding like he was born to it.

He was, and she can only wait, feet planted firmly on the ground, for Hatter to come down to earth again.

He's immersed himself in her world, sinking down into it until it seeps into his skin. There are no green tattoos in her world, nothing to mark him out. Nothing but his accent and his occasionally idiosyncratic dress sense. He still wears hats but his hair is tamer now, and doesn't fight to escape gravity. His shirts are still bright but not as loud. He's muted, washed out a little by her world, like the old movies that show on TV late at night and fascinate him, little glimpses of a long lost world.

She never asks him if he's homesick. Maybe she's afraid the answer will be yes, a reminder of everything he's given up for her.

Maybe the answer will be no, and the thought of that is even worse.

Maybe it's the movies that have him thinking there's another piece of paper he needs, one that will bind them both together more than pain and fear and triumph over the odds, and over the Queen, already have. More even than love.

"Alice," he murmurs against her mouth after kissing her goodbye. Her mother is in the other room, just a wall away from the pair of them, but Alice is the first to acknowledge that walls are thin when it comes to separating her world from Hatter's. "I know I can't make you a queen..."

She pulls back, puts enough distance between them to place her finger on his lips and even in Wonderland they understand that message. He quietens but she whispers, "Shhh," against his skin anyway. The stubble on his cheek pricks against her lips and he smells of the aftershave he uses now. It's not quite the scent he had in Wonderland but it's close enough.

It has to be.

"It's too soon," she murmurs back and his breath is warm against her fingers. "We don't move that fast over here and my mother..." And her mother. "She thinks we're moving too fast as it is..."

She pulls away her fingers, pressing her mouth back against his, and he swallows the lie.

"Ask me again in a few months."

She feels his mouth forming the question, silently against hers - a few months - and kisses it away.

That one's the truth. Or close enough.

-o-

Days go past, more slowly than they did in Wonderland, but they turn into weeks, nonetheless, marching forward at a steady pace.

"Ask me again," she tells Hatter, tells David, tells Hatter again and she means it. She really does.

-o-

Time drifts and Alice drifts along with it and David... David is drifting slowly away. He still comes to dinner once a week with Alice and her mother, still takes her out on dates to places she's never thought of as being date-like - bridges and buildings and parks she never knew were there - but he's tired, distracted. Sometimes she looks at him and thinks she can see right though him, like smoke, like glass.

Sometimes days go by without her seeing him at all, and his absence twists and bites and stings. Then he finally comes by and sits on the couch and they talk, trading banalities like 'how was work?' that can't mean anything and don't, and she misses him even more, her Hatter.

He doesn't ask her now; maybe he sees through her as well, and the silence that's left stretches out between them.

Hatter's a duck and Hatter's a fish, and Hatter's quick and slick and difficult to pin down. And sometimes, after he's gone, still tired, still distracted by everything that's her world and not his, Alice stares at her hands for minutes, hours at a time, afraid that if she opens her fingers and looks, nothing will be there.

-o-

"I've got something to show you," he says and he takes her hand, just like he did that first time. She curls her fingers around his and feels him there, strong and real, as real as anything gets. His hat is pushed to the back of his head, and his hair, still shorter than it was, is pushed up, too.

It hurts her heart to see him like this, as close to Hatter as he's ever been since he placed all of his bets on her and followed her home.

"Okay," she says because she owes him this and more than this. Owes him her life and her world, and something is blossoming in her chest, hope scattered among the hurts, because this, this is as close to Hatter as she gets.

It's not a park or a bridge over water, dark and deep, that he shows her this time. Nor is it a hidden statue or a facet of her city she's never seen because she's never cared to look. It's a building, large and empty, down near the college campus. They pass students, chittering and chattering like birds, and Hatter blends in, seamlessly, with the hipsters and the kids just starting out, the world stretching out before them like they could ever own it.

They don't realise that it's not the only one.

She tightens her grip on Hatter's hand, not wanting him to slip through her fingers, not this time, and he turns his head to look back at her, giving her a tight little smile. His dimple flashes in his cheek, just for a second, a glimpse of what was, and she speeds her steps, keeping up with him, faster and faster, her feet flashing against the pavement.

She's breathless by the time they make it up the second flight of steps, because Hatter doesn't do elevators if he can help it, and the elevators here are just that - empty and lifeless, like the ones in the casino, not cobbled together out of what's left over, what doesn't fit, quirky and perfect like a bus in a library.

Then Hatter pauses, stopping so suddenly that she almost runs into him, her fingers tangling in his leather jacket and the scent of him, the real scent of him, up so close she doesn't want to step back. He looks at her, and she knows that look. It's tight and tense, tired and distracted, but there's so much underneath, so many stories she hasn't yet had a chance to hear.

"What is it?" she asks, because time isn't going to wait, not for her and not for Hatter. It's mean like that, and so much of it has slipped through her fingers, like sand, like smoke.

"It's for you," he says, and he pushes the door open.

The room is empty, and her heart sinks at the sight, like it's a metaphor or a message, a 'goodbye' and a 'so long' and a 'so this is what it meant', all mixed up together. But then Hatter is stepping past her, and his eyes - oh, his eyes have always shown how he's felt when she's looked and when she's seen. They show her now all the things that go on in him underneath the surface, just waiting to be mined and pulled up into the light.

"I thought..." and he pauses, licks his lips nervously and looks away. "I know you're happy where you are, but..." He shrugs. "I know how to run a business, Alice, and you should have your own place."

Her own place. She has a place, with Hatter. It sounds strange in her mind, until she turns it over carefully and finds the place it fits.

It slots in perfectly.

The floor is bare, wooden, and the light is good, streaming through the windows. It will be warm in the summer, when she teaches all those eager students they passed on the street how to defend everything but their hearts. And she knows that she will teach, here in this room; it's here in this room that she's finally learnt the one lesson she needed to - that her heart has no defences against this man, no matter what his name.

"Our place?" she asks, turning to him, and something in him eases, some tension she wasn't aware of until it's gone.

"Not exactly." At her look - at her silence - he tugs on her hand again, leading her towards one of the doors. "This one's yours." At the last second he lets go, and his face is back to unreadable, that poker face that let him play on both sides at once. For once, she can't see what he's feeling in his eyes - they're dark and deep and give nothing away.

"Come see," he says, and steps through.

She follows. In the end, he's never led her astray, not unless she's wanted to be led.

Past the door, there are mirrors, one on each side of the entrance. She's caught there for a moment, suspended between the two, mirrored and mirrored and mirrored, reflected on and on until she's not sure where reality begins or ends.

Then her foot lands and she moves on past them, back into Wonderland.

There is grass underfoot, bright green Astroturf, and the chairs and small tables scattered here and there are bright, colourful, a mismatch of shapes and sizes that shouldn't work but that just do. Here something curved and red and plastic, all sleek, fluid lines that remind her of go-go dancers and late summer nights and music that's so good, so soulful that it hurts. There an overstuffed sofa that sings of fireside and fresh flowers, begging to be sunk into and never climbed out of again. At the back of the room, and raised a little from the main floor, is a bar, and it's there that Hatter stands.

He's watching her, still and dark and deep, and she takes a step towards him, the grass springing under her feet. "I have a loan," he offers her like it's a present, all gift wrapped and waiting under the tree. "And the paperwork to prove it," and she can't help it, has to smile. "And business plans and cash flow projections." He reels them off, the words tripping from his tongue like they belong there. They don't jar for once; don't make her think of everything he's given up for her. Instead, she remembers everything he was and will be. He was a business man in Wonderland, too, and while the currency may be different - no teas or oysters or information to barter or trade - the principles remain the same. Find what someone needs and give it to them. For a price.

How could she ever think that her world would pull him down, that he would drown in the mundane of it all, in paperwork and permits when he comes from a wonderful, terrible world of cabbages and kings?

"It's close to the university campus," he says, still watchful and watching as she looks around, taking it all in. "Lots of students, all thirsty for something after drinking in all that knowledge. Even thirstier once you've had your way with them and they're tired out and aching for a nice cup of tea. And if I know anything, I know tea." He tilts his head and smiles at her, hopeless and helpless, and she smiles back, just as lost in him, in all of the memories of him, in his world and in hers.

It's when she turns away, looks around again and drinks it all in, that she sees it - the sign over the doorway, the one that leads back to the first room and the real world. Alice's Place, it says, and she thinks yes. Her place is here and on the other side there will be a sign, one she didn't spot. One that says Hatter's Place and, of course, it's right beside her.

"Do you like it?"

She turns back to him and looks at him, really looks at him, and he's solid and real and Hatter. She has to laugh, feeling it shake its way free of her, because, no, she shouldn't have ever doubted it. It's not the first time she's made that mistake, but it will be the last.

"Like?" she says, and he watches her as she moves closer to him, pulled closer by everything he is and everything she wants. "You know what like is? Much cream cake and chocolate and what was his name again?"

His face freezes for a second but she's there, right there to thaw it again, her hands coming up to cup his face. She looks straight at him, straight into his eyes, his wonderful, open, changeable eyes and they're perfect, like all of this is perfect. "What's your name again?"

He's confused, she can tell, can feel it and see it and almost smell it, but he comes through for her as he always does, no fear of falling for Hatter, not this time. "Hatter."

"Yes," and she kisses him, fierce and free, feeling him melt underneath her touch. "Yes." Kisses him again, here, in his teashop; his world in hers. How wonderful.

How Hatter.

He kisses her back, soft and then hard, and she pulls him in, pulls him down until there's grass underneath her and Hatter above her. "I quit my job," he says. "Construction wasn't really... me," and she laughs again, drinking him in.

"Hatter," she mutters against his neck, his cheek, his lips. It's a plea and a prayer and a confirmation, all at once. "My Hatter. Oh, how I've missed you."

"But I've been right here."

"Yes." He has, of course, and she kisses the confused frown, the one that creases the skin between his eyebrows. Kisses it all away. "I just lost sight of that for a while," and his brow creases further, his lips parting like he's going to say something.

She twists her body and rolls him, taking him by surprise even after all this time. Although, from the way he smiles up at her, maybe it wasn't a surprise at all, not for someone who is as full of them as Hatter.

She leans down, pinning him, her fingers wrapping around his wrists. "Ask me," she says, whispering it against his mouth. He's warm and solid beneath her, and she presses closer, letting go of him; her fingers sink into the grass instead. She knows that it's fake, cool plastic against her fingertips, but she would swear that the scent of it surrounds her anyway, sharp and crisp and clear like a summer's day, when the sun is warm and there's not a cloud in the sky. The scent of peace and hope and happiness. But even that's got nothing on the scent of Hatter as he pulls her closer, his fingers sinking into her, sliding underneath her clothes to stroke along her skin and, oh, how she's missed him. But she's no one but herself to blame if she couldn't see before now. That Hatter and David are both him, and it's him she wants. "Ask me again."

He hesitates - how could he not? But he's smart and tenacious and a lot braver than even he believes.

"I know I can't offer you a kingdom..."

She kisses him again, slow and sweet, and it's sweeter than cream cake and chocolate, an answer and a promise all rolled into one. "You already have," she says.

-o-

The sun is low in the sky when she wakes, turning the room into melted candy, all those colours and shadows blending together. She stretches like a cat and feels it, all the places inside and out that have been marked by Hatter.

Hatter's no longer wrapped around her but she's not worried, not any more. He's here, he's staying here; she can hear him, whistling as he potters, happy and content - kettle on the stove and the pot already warming.

There are petals in her hair and grass stains on her knees and everything is right in her world. She's where she belongs, and so is he.

The End






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