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Of Tea and Chess

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It lasted a total of three weeks.

Three weeks of coming back into her world where everything made sense rather than the backwards life of Wonderland. Three weeks dodging questions from her mother and spent in rare vacation so that all she did was read, clean and force herself to relax.

Relax as best she could that was.

Three weeks before Wonderland began to suck her back in.

It started as quietly as her last adventure did, a normal day where nearly nothing exceptional happened. Nearly nothing was the best she could hope for when it came to going on a date with David T. Hatter. Usually the dates were an odd mixture of conversation and excitement. However, his infectious enthusiasm had been dampened by the tiny argument they had had earlier that day regarding the proper way to avoid a fight at a local bar.

Hatter loved the idea of the Oyster pubs and bars. Loved the atmosphere and the chance to thoroughly stir up confusion with just a few words. Alice had decided early to never take him to a dance club because something about that light in his eyes worried her and she decided quickly that perhaps she had better avoid those. She didn't need him have any new obsessions or lists as to what he wanted.

She was the first at that list, he told her.

Normally, he was the epitome of zany gentleman at the local bar, attentive to her and friendly to others. His loss of temper had occurred when Alice had found herself being accosted by an overly zealous pool player that had hated how Hatter easily hustled him out of more than two hundred dollars. Despite Alice's continued threats about such activity, she had to admit that it was almost too easily done and he did it almost as well as he could win at poker or Old Maid (a game she had never thought to bet money on). Hatter was too damned clever at deception. The pool shark had thought so too and, in an effort to distract Hatter from a shot, had promptly given Alice a hearty slap on her butt. Then with a loud crunch, pop and a groan, the man was on the floor surrounded by stunned customers and Alice was hurrying Hatter back and out to her apartment.

He may have come across the Mirror for her but he had not lost that sledgehammer of a right hook, the ability to talk nonsense for minutes on end, nor the cocksure way he carried himself. He had nearly distracted her from arguing her point until she had flagged down a cab. Their arguement had really begun at his claim to defend her honour with Alice pointing out that she would be much better to defend her own honour. Especially when his idea of punching another man likely resulted in concussions and broken jaws. Her way of doing things saved them from that and let her feel better about being grabbed by a sleazy pool shark.

After a solid of 14 minutes of sulking on the opposite end of the couch, Hatter started to give her clipped answers to her attempts of conversation as she watched, of all things, a science channel talking about the development of the Great Barrier Reef. It was fifteen minutes when he caught her glancing at him from the corner of his eye, fifteen and one half when he pulled his favourite green fedora over his one eye, making a show of it. It was sixteen minutes when Alice began to get annoyed that he could so easily ignore her attempts at compromise.

Sixteen and a half passed before he suddenly launched himself across the cushions and yanked her underneath him, his mouth hard and hot on hers as she squeaked in surprise. His fedora brim banged into her forehead while he put an arm over her head and slipped between her legs to brace himself. Deciding that playing the furious girlfriend wasn't likely to work, Alice pulled the hat from his head and pushed her hands through his hair as she kissed him back. He slipped a hand down to her leg and pulled it over his hip, the heat already escalating between them.

It lasted for ten intoxicating minutes before Hatter pulled back, going back to his side of the couch as he tried to recover his breathing. Alice pulled herself up and smoothed at her hair, confused by this sudden change and trying to slow her heart down. Her mother wasn't due back for a good hour or so and Hatter, wary of her mother's good graces, was well aware of it. He was punctual to be on his way out when her mother was coming in the door, quick to make the politest conversation. He wasn't afraid of her, he explained to Alice, just wanted to make sure nothing interfered with his time with his favourite Oyster. Especially a protective mother.

Alice stared at him as he put his fedora back on his head and lifted his feet onto her coffee table, ignoring the fact that she had scolded him already for it. He seemed to be introverting again, something that he did rather well when he was trying to think something over. Despite that rather frequent habit of 'gobbing' as he called it, Hatter could go a little too quiet some times. Clearly avoiding the one thing she wanted to talk about.

18 real dates in rapid succession, the other days of seeing one another more casually but with no less intensity. Each time they had kissed they had grown hungrier and their desire harder to ignore. But when Alice had tried to further it, one time getting her fingers to his belt, he had pulled away with no explanation. To ask him for one resulted in a long rant that told her nothing at all really.

Didn't he want her still?

Alice chewed on her lower lip as she stared at Hatter, who was resolving again not to look at her. She picked up her battered copy of North and South, the familiar old story nothing but a blur of black type as she tried to work her thoughts around her problems. Her old insecurities were flaring up but he hadn't really been avoiding her, just avoid that idea that sex should come naturally. Despite her past history of waiting with her boyfriends, Alice had wanted him more desperately than any other man she had known. Likely would have had him in her living room that day if her mother hadn't been there. She knew he wanted her, could feel it, but Hatter seemed almost...

"I need to to back to Wonderland for a few days," Hatter said suddenly and she dropped the book to the floor.

"Sorry! But...what?" Alice asked as she bent and grabbed the book. Hatter grunted something and turned his head to see her bending the old book back and forth nervously.

"Just need to check on the shop. I'm still running it there, you know," Hatter said as he leaned forward and tugged on the brim of his cap.

"Oh. I thought that you were leaving," Alice said, unable to help the childish tone in her voice. It was a reflex to think that he was just looking to leave her. Hatter, hearing the quietness in her voice, turned on the sofa and took the book from her hands and tossed it carelessly onto the table. Alice opened her mouth to protest the action but he pressed two fingers over her lips.

"Furthest thing from it, luv. I'd back in a few Earth days...maybe only a few hours," he said, smiling at her. Deeply relieved, Alice smiled at him, suddenly aware of how deeply she had fallen for him. She had had him for three weeks now, nearly completely to herself and to think of him being gone was almost painful. But then, she was in her twenties, a grown woman who should have no worries about being alone.

Hatter saw the way her thoughts were going yet he knew it had to be done until his life reached some odd order. He did have a good reason for going back after all. It was not as if Jack Heart had been thrilled about Hatter pursuing Alice through the Mirror but he had conceded that Hatter was a shrewd business man. The Tea Shop he had run had been the best and there were still citizens that depended on it to ease the drudgery of their lives. Alice knew that he was running the Tea Shop but he had led her to believe that he was a silent partner.

Hatter never told Alice that he was in constant contact with Jack's Suits and arranged for the importation of more exotic things, the first being real Earth Teas that he tried. Oh, she had noticed that his borrowed apartment was chock full of every tea imaginable but she had thought it was his obsession. Well...that was true but he had taken to blending them, finding new flavours that created sensational tastes when combined with the natural Wonderland Teas. The citizens had been addicted to the Emotions and harmless tea was another, safer route to detox them from their addictions. He had begun to use the Tea Shop to trade with the Heart Royalty in exchange for the currency in her world and it had been successful. But he knew Dormie, knew his other mates and knew that it could all just crumble right down. He already had his suspicions that perhaps the teas were going too well, that he and Jack had simply found another addiction for the Wonderland citizens, and that was just not sitting quite right.\.

What he was not looking forward to was when Alice found out what he had been really doing. He had been meaning to tell her, really he had, but between dodging her mother and trying to be a gentleman she could respect by not simply throwing her up against a wall and letting lust rule his head, Hatter was stymied.

"Okay," she said, interrupting his thoughts. Alice started to pick up her book and Hatter took it from her, tipping his head on the side. His eyes darted nervously down and then up.

"So I was should come with me. Claim its a vacation. Visit Charlie and the Kingdom if you want," Hatter paused, his mouth turning to a sneer, "even His Royal Interruptiness."

"That's not a word and Jack would likely be nicer to you if you acted nicer to him," Alice pointed out. Hatter rolled his eyes at the argument he had heard a few times already.

"He loved you, Alice. Let's not forget that I stole his effects and bribed his technicians to get through the mirror. He likely won't ever forgive me for coming here after you since he wanted you for himself," Hatter pointed out.

"I guess I can take a few hours or days. I'll just have to orga..."

"Wonderful!" Hatter bounced up onto his feet and pulled her up, twirling her about in an odd waltzing maneuver. "Leave it to you to call your work and mom. I need to get my coat."

"Now?" Alice asked, bewildered at his excitement.

"Why not? The mapped out time for the Suits travelling in and out of the Looking Glass to import some of the more exotic things is about now. I can catch one of them around the larger stores getting goods for his Highliness likely." This was perfect, he thought to himself, if he could let Alice see the good this was doing, perhaps his not telling her would not seem so large an issue.

"Good point," she decided, suddenly caught up in his excitement. She grinned at him as he whirled her around again and danced her about to her front door.

"This, my Alice, is going to be a wonderful...madcap, brilliant escapade now," he said before lowering his head. Alice leaned up into him and he kissed her, the kiss beginning as playful and quickly deepening. Unready for it, Alice moaned as his fingers brushed the side of her breast and Hatter stumbled into her, pressing her against the door so that it made an odd thump. He groaned into her mouth as her hands dug into his hair and she lifted up against him, one leg lifting against his.

Hatter broke the kiss and panted against her cheek. "I need to go."

"Do you?" Alice whispered as she stared up at him and licked her lips. He made an odd noise in his throat as she pressed a quick kiss against his lips.

"I do...I do," he repeated, more to convince himself rather than her as she placed small pecks onto his lips and rubbed against him just so. "Else..."

"All right," Alice answered, suddenly pulling away from him as she opened the door and let him out. "Give me about three hours and I'll meet you at the mirror then. Mom will be surprised but I can think of something revolving around surprise romantic vacation."

The door was closed on his dazed face before Hatter could even really think. He stared at the door before promptly slumping against it and groaning. Living in this world had its frustrations and unfortunately, there was no finding a 'Satisfaction' Tea to help with them.