“Hatter? What is that all over your pants?”
Alice had come up behind him at the stove. He spared a glance – didn’t want the butter to burn.
“Hmm? Oh, probably cat hair.”
She started brushing the offending substance from his leg.
“Hey, watch those hands. I am–” yeah, now that was just on purpose “...dealing with a hot surface here!”
He received a fond squeeze and she asked where he’d run into a cat.
“In the alley. Taking out the trash.”
That night they talked about animals.
Hatter didn't have the sort of childhood that included pets. As an adult, he considered getting something exotic for his office — a parrot or mome rath perhaps — but decided against it.
Alice hadn’t wanted any since Dinah died.
“It was like losing a member of the family,” she told him from her end of the sofa. “I just wasn’t up for it again, y’know? Also, it’s sort of a big commitment.”
He nodded. Alice was... skittish when it came to some things. She said "trust" when she meant "love." She moved in but most of her mail still went to her mother's address.
Alice got up and Hatter let the subject lapse. There were Other Things to do besides talk about cats.
“What’s this?” she asked as she pulled the lid off a container. There wasn’t time to tell her not to sniff it.
Alice wrinkled her nose. “Is this cat food?”
He shrugged. He’d meant to put that under the sink. At the back.
She put it back on the counter. “Are we getting a cat?”
“No,” he stated. She raised a brow.
“Not exactly,” he added. “I just… fed it a little something.”
“Hatter, that is exactly how you get a cat.”
“It was all bones, Alice!”
He grabbed her by the ribs and flexed his fingers for emphasis. “You could feel each and every one of these!”
She laughed and twisted, at both his touch and tone. “Yeah? Could you feel those too?”
“Who am I to not help a damsel in distress?”
“So our not cat is a girl, is it?”
Our. It always got him when she said it so simple. Him and her. A thing that was one thing. He skipped the answer and went straight for the kiss.
“Hey, will you make sure the heater in the bedroom is on?” Alice asked him.
It was her turn to make dinner, and her hands were busy.
A lamp was already on, so it only took him a moment to notice something out of place. Something of a commitment. He returned to the kitchen.
“I notice there’s a cat on the bed,” he said, gesturing behind him even though Alice kept her eyes on the stove. “Which is unusual, because I thought we didn’t have one of those?”
“It’s freezing out there tonight,” she said and he could hear the smile in her voice.
She didn't talk about commitment, but she let the cat inside.
That night, they added an extra blanket for warmth. As soon as they were under the covers, the cat settled on top.
Two people and a pet, Hatter thought. Cozy. Domestic. If Alice meant for…
She turned to face him. “What are we going to name her?”
Oh yeah, they had a cat.