By the time it occurred to Alice that it would be a problem, and thought to ask Hatter - David -- about it, it had been rather more than a month since coming back from Wonderland. David just smiled at her, his very best 'trust me!' smile.
"All sorted, m'dear," he said brightly and she groaned.
"What did you do?"
As it transpired, almost exactly what he'd done in Wonderland: built a network of people who knew people. His papers said that he was a permanent resident, an immigrant from the UK (who would probably be surprised to hear that they had acquired a new citizen without even the courtesy of a dinner and a dance) who was a 'priority worker'.
Challenged on this he simply grinned at her. "I've got priorities," he said, sounded wounded. He bit the side of her neck, just lightly, on the tendon, and she shivered. It wasn't an answer, but that was all he'd say about it.
Her mother worried: It's all very sudden, she said the morning after David had come to her in her world. One minute you're chasing after Jack, and then barely a day later you're all over this David Hatter boy. What do you even know about him?
It didn't help that Hatter made the least convincing construction worker ever. There was nothing she could say about life and death, about faith forged from pain or love from faith. He didn't even make a pretence of being in construction for more than a couple of weeks, the lie slipping easily and unconvincingly from his lips.
He found work in a betting shop, and Alice breathed a sigh of relief, right up until she realised that the little gifts he kept bringing her were way more expensive than his new-hire salary could possibly justify. She didn't know which would be worse: if he was stealing things from people, or if he was somehow stealing the money to buy things. But it was Hatter, and in the end she couldn't help asking him.
The flash of hurt in his eyes convinced her before he ever opened his mouth. In fact, it did better than his words (which were glib and quick, and full of lies) at convincing her, which made her mother shake her head again. You can't live on faith and hope, she said, and didn't look meaningfully at the expensive gewgaws and trinkets.
Alice looked away and said nothing. Words pressed against her lips, but she could not say them, would never say them, because they were the very words she herself had once used harshly, cruelly. Unfairly. Her mother feared Alice would be hurt, abandoned and left to raise a child without a partner -- because he left, because he didn't care enough, wasn't decent enough or strong enough, because he just wasn't good enough to stay the course.
Because Alice was pregnant. Hatter was the exact last person in Alice's world to know -- she'd warned her martial arts classes well in advance, although most had figured it out. At five months her gi still fitted, but she'd long since stopped demonstrating certain strikes and falls. Her mother had wanted her to give up the whole thing, but it was probably some sort of moral obligation on her mother, on mothers everywhere, to try to take over their daughters' lives. She didn't give in.
She had thought Hatter knew -- how could he not? The bump was getting pretty huge, and she felt like she was saying the most obvious thing in the world when she'd said casually, so, you know about the baby, right?
Hatter was so surprised he sat on the floor, staring up at her, apparently oblivious to the painful thud as his butt hit the deck. Seriously? he'd asked, and Alice nodded, a little anxious. She really hadn't been sure if he would think it was good news or not. But he had blinked up at her, once, twice, eyes wide and indecipherable. Then he'd bounced to his feet and wrapped her in a hug so fierce and all-enveloping that she'd started crying.
That had taken a while to clear up while they both finished panicking at each other.
Time passed, and as Alice's belly got bigger, and the apartment got smaller, marriage kept getting dropped into the conversation. A boulder in a creek, routed around as soon as it was spotted, Alice and Hatter both conniving in avoiding the entire topic every time her mother brought it up.
Hatter brought up the subject of moving out when Alice was seven months gone. There was dead silence in the living room, and they both instinctively moved closer together, watching her mother. Who smiled gamely, clearly straining not to erupt with any of the things that worried her about the idea. A lovely idea, she said eventually, but it's rather short notice; and, Alice is in no state to traipse around apartments; and What kind of place can the two of you afford?
Alice had no money; Hatter, it turned out, did. Those people who he knew, knew people who sent them video of apartments that he assured her they could afford to buy. They didn't look like apartments they could afford to buy.
She asked, with studied casualness, where the money was coming from, and he tapped the side of his nose. Best you don't know, darling, he said confidentially, and she pulled her hand out of his, and stepped back.
He looked about, trapped, and then slumped. Got an eye, don't I? An eye for games and bets, bets and markets, it's all just -- and he shuffled through a pack of cards, dazzlingly fast until the Queen of Hearts fluttered to the ground, and they both stared at her.
And? She was afraid he was scamming, stealing, embezzling, but it turned out, he had parlayed a small salary at a betting shop into a series of small wins, which became a series of big wins, which became a series of investments that in a depressed market bucked every trend going. It had taken him eight months to get rich.
He'd learned about banks and stocks and shares, and now, when she gasped at the numbers he showed her, he just shrugged.
Easy pickings, he said, as though millions of dollars were nothing to brag about. Now, get a half bottle of hope from a merchant who -- but he'd stopped, and Alice was just as glad. She wasn't sure she wanted to know what he'd done in Wonderland before she knew him.
If I could turn a profit in that place, he'd said finally, I can turn a profit anywhere. After that, this is easy. The rules are all written down here and the game is simple, see.
So they got an apartment. Not too far from her Mom, but far enough that there wouldn't be any unexpected visits. High enough to have a view of the sea, not so high that her fear of heights -- or fear for their fearless baby girl -- kicked in. Alice's mother had looked around it with wary approval, and politely wondered just how much of a bargain it had been. Hatter tapped the side of his nose, and Alice smiled.
Katharine was utterly fearless. Her eyes were the exact shade of her father's and sometimes Alice could swear she saw that glimmer of something that said 'Wonderland' in her little girl Hatter's eyes. Or maybe it was, as Hatter swore, her mother's straight seeing courage.
Hatter had wanted to call her something alliterative, and had worked his way through all the H names in the baby names book that one of her students had given her at the impromptu baby shower after her last class. She'd laughed and laughed, and stayed firm despite the temptation to horrify her mother even more.
Although, if the baby's middle name began with an H that was just between Alice and Hatter. So, Katherine it was, promptly shortened to Kitty and Kitten, and KitKat, and Kittyhatty. Her father was astonished by her, and watched her with wary amazement until she, coordinating fingers and eyes at five or so months, tweaked his long nose, and roared with laughter at his face. He tweaked straight back, lopsided grin bright and wholly unshadowed.
He let go all the wariness at once, finding the joy that Alice had felt since almost the day she first knew, and played with Kitty, bouncing her high above his head, dancing with her at midnight, teaching her to slide in the mud and run in the rain.
And Alice watched, and sometimes, she danced in the rain at midnight too, and laughed, and sang them stories and played games, and seized every moment of joy with wonderment.