Chapter 1: Wonderland
It was dark by the time they made it back to Charlie's encampment. Alice was so tired. She knew her companions must be, too.
They had had to travel by foot. The horses had been let go before Charlie and Hatter entered the casino; they would have found their way home long before now.
Alice hadn't made it very far in the woods last night before falling asleep. And then she'd gotten up before dawn.
Let's see, what all have I accomplished today?
Wander through the wilderness to be found by a psychotic headhunter, check.
Taken into custody and interrogated, check.
Found out my father is alive, here, somewhere, check.
Torture session, check.
Rescued, check. (She really should thank them again.)
Hand-to-hand battle, check.
Confront one of my greatest fears, check.
Fall into a lake (for the second time) and swim to shore, check.
Hike through a forest, check.
She was deliriously tired.
Hatter said he would see her back to camp and then set off to contact the Resistance.
"You should rest first," she told him. She didn't know how he'd spent his morning, but they finished the day together, so she knew he had to be at least half as tired as her. And half as tired as this was still completely exhausted.
Certainly tired enough that she didn't have any fight in her when he said they'd be sharing the bed this time.
"Because last time, you took off," he explained.
She nodded and asked if he had a side he preferred.
He opened his mouth, no doubt ready to argue, before realizing what she said.
"Er, no. Not really," he answered. "You?"
She shrugged. "I always end up in the middle."
She sat down on the edge closest to her and rubbed her legs. She wondered how many miles they'd covered. Should she be thankful the flamingo had carried them part of the way?
Alice stretched out. It felt good to lie down.
She felt the mattress dip when Hatter joined her.
She was so, so tired. But not sleepy at all. Her muscles spasmed and her mind jumped. He was here, somewhere. She had to find him.
Hatter interrupted her thoughts by asking "So your prince gets what? The edge? The floor?"
"What?" She opened her eyes. They were both on their backs, but his head was turned to face her.
"If you end up in the middle. Where does that leave his highness?"
"Oh." She blushed. She didn't owe Hatter any answers.
But she was still upset with Jack for cheating on her, and there was nobody else to talk to.
"I, um… never stayed over." She kept her eyes on the sky. "And I live with my mom, so… that would be awkward."
"I see," was all Hatter said. He didn't have any other questions (or jibes) for her, so she assumed he'd fallen asleep.
After a while, Alice rolled over on her side. It was a colder night than before. She pulled her knees her to her chest to try and maintain her body's warmth.
That purple coat was probably still around here somewhere. But that would mean getting up. She didn't want to wake anybody up, either.
She ran one hand over her bare arm and tucked the other one underneath her. If she could just fall asleep, she wouldn't even know she was cold…
And then Hatter was moving and the whole bed shook and creaked. Alice looked over her shoulder just in time to see his leather jacket descending on her.
His brows were furrowed and he looked cross with her.
She hadn't asked him for the jacket.
"Thanks, but you don't have to-"
"You've got goosebumps," he grunted. And then he repositioned himself so that he was closer to her.
Alice tensed up out of habit and looked away again. He was going to get clocked if he tried anything.
But he didn't. Just let his warmth transfer along between them, and she felt her whole body begin to relax.
He had her back. She believed him. That he would contact the resistance and try to help her find her father.
She wasn't alone.
Until she woke up.
Hatter was already gone.
Chapter 2: This Side
As usual, first thing he did upon arriving from the Looking Glass, Hatter checked the time. It was late. Alice would already be asleep. He should just go to the flat and get some rest and see her the next day.
But Hatter was never good at waiting. His feet knew this. That's why they were carrying him in the direction of her place.
He fished in his pocket for the key Alice had given him and used it to unlock the door as quietly as he could. Was stealth a virtue? Could be, in a situation like this, trying not to disturb the neighbors or your girlfriend's mother.
He walked lightly down the hall — the boards closer to the walls didn't creak as much — and slipped into Alice's room. He closed the door behind him; didn't want to wake Carol.
Alice was curled up on her side under a sheet. She'd already kicked the blanket off. He placed his hat on her chest of drawers and sat on the edge of the bed. He knew better than to kiss her sleeping form. Kisses to sleeping Alices earned you black eyes from elbows.
But the bed moving did the trick, and she turned her head toward him.
"Heyyyy," she whispered. "I didn't think I'd see you until tomorrow."
"Couldn't wait," he said simply. Now that she was awake, he was free to touch her. He let his hand trail down her arm. She brought her hand out from under the cover to lace her fingers with his.
"How is Wonderland?"
He nodded. "Good. It's fine. We'll talk about it tomorrow." Honestly, he was simply too knackered to get into it. Just telling her who all was at the last meeting Jack had called to order would take him at least ten minutes. Minutes he'd rather spend just being next to her. He leaned down to kiss her forehead.
"You look tired," she told him.
Guilty as charged.
"Yeah," he admitted. "But once I'm on this side of the glass, it's pretty impossible not to come see you, so…"
She smiled. "Take off your shoes."
She wanted him to lie down with her. He dutifully unlaced his boots. Slipped off his jacket as well. She lifted the sheet up so he could get in next to her, and he saw the lines of her bare legs.
"You're not wearin' much," he noted.
"It's hot out."
"Oh, I wasn't complaining," he said as he settled in next to her.
She gave him a muffled laugh and wrapped her arm around his waist. She laid one of her legs over his.
He liked this. Moments with Alice.
Hatter's circumstances had always been temporary. At best. And whether or not his current circumstances — helping with the ongoing reconstruction of Wonderland and visiting Alice whenever possible — were any less temporary, he didn't know. He just planned on making the most of them while they lasted.
He yawned. "I can't stay long or I'll fall asleep here."
"That's good with me," Alice said sleepily.
"Yeah, but then I'd be here in the morning." And that was off-limits.
"Mmm-hmm." Alice seemed unperturbed.
Half-asleep, not thinking things through. "I'm pretty sure your mother would notice," he added.
Alice opened her eyes. "Notice what?"
"Um…" Why wasn't she getting this? "It'd be awkward. Right?"
Alice removed her arm. She re-arranged so that she was propped up on an elbow. She was awake now. No more whispers.
"Because she'd know you stayed over?" She dropped her voice and raised her eyebrows. "Because she might assume I had my wicked way with you?"
She was teasing him. He rolled his eyes.
"Hatter, come on. I'm pretty sure she knows what's going down when I stay over at your place. If you're here in the morning, she'd probably just offer you some coffee or something."
It wasn't his rule; why was she giving him a hard time about this?
"It's just… you said," he reminded her. "That it would be awkward."
She shook her head. "When did I say that? What are you talking about?"
Why did it feel like they were fighting? He didn't want to fight with Alice.
"In Wonderland. You implied. That Jack didn't stay over…"
Alice waved her hand, dispelling something. "Jack was my boyfriend."
She was watching him, waiting for him to speak. But suddenly he found that rather difficult.
Your best temporary circumstances yet, they were. He sat up. It felt too vulnerable to be lying down.
Alice sat up, too. Brows drawing together.
"Am I… not your boyfriend?" he managed to ask.
She made a little scoffing noise. "You know what I mean."
He should just let it go. Why didn't he just let it go?
"No, I don't think I do."
"Hatter. Are you serious?" Her head tilted forward, incredulous. "You are… so much more than Jack. It'd seem silly– it would feel wrong to call you the same thing."
His heart started beating again. He hadn't realized until that moment that it had seemed to stop.
He wasn't tired anymore. And Alice certainly didn't appear sleepy any more.
"I made you angry," he realized.
"No. Yes. A little." She pushed her hair away from her face. "I'm mad that you'd compare yourself to Jack. It makes me... frustrated."
He smiled. He couldn't help it.
"I could help with that," he said lightly. "If you like."
He expected her to laugh. He wanted to diffuse the tension that had arisen. But as often happened with Alice, she surprised him.
"Yeah," she nodded. "I think I would."
And then his heart started to beat faster. She really meant it. He could go from waking her up to making her mad and then be allowed to touch her. He still couldn't believe his luck.
He reached out and put his hand on the side of her neck. "You really are tense."
"Well, yeah," she huffed. "You saying stuff like that does that to me."
"I'm sorry," he whispered. He kissed her. She was stiff at first and that made him hesitant, but he just kept going, gently.
And she started to kiss him back. Brought her hands up to his shoulders, his face, his hair.
She crawled onto his lap and pushed him down to the bed, followed by pulling at his shirt to get to more of his neck. Her hair was falling out of the ponytail she had it in and he pulled it loose.
Abruptly, she sat up and grabbed at the hem of his shirt, tugging it and him upward at the same time. He moved quickly to let her get the shirt off and then slipped his hands under her top and pulled it over her head.
The moment her breasts were free, he kissed them. Instinct, really.
And then they were back down, bare skin-to-skin. When she started to fumble with his belt, he sucked in a breath.
"Are we really going to do this? With your mum down the hall?"
"Can you keep quiet?" she asked.
He nodded mutely. Yes, yes. I will do whatever you say as long as you keep moving like that.
"Promise?" she asked, but that wasn't fair at all, because she put her hand down his pants at the same time and he couldn't help the gasp that followed.
"I promise," he choked out.
She stroked him and he tried to phrase a concern. "The, ahhh… the–" Really now, how could he be expected to form coherent sentences under conditions like this? "The box isn't here."
He couldn't find the right words, practically any words, when his every thought was to be inside her.
Alice sat up. On him. "The condoms." She looked so defeated. Ah, well. He put his hand on her hip. Maybe they could still-
And then she scrambled off him. "Wait!"
"Where are you going?" Things were just getting interesting.
"I'll be right back," she promised, grabbing his jacket and pulling it around her shoulders. "And those pants should be off when I get back."
She disappeared from the room, and her determined hopefulness told him he might like whatever she had in mind. He took his pants off as instructed.
She returned in a moment with a small zippered case. "Travel bag," she explained. She opened it up and started digging through the contents. He recognized a toothbrush and a hair dryer. Then she pulled out a strip of three condoms and gave him a winning smile. But when she flipped them over, she frowned.
"It's alright, love," he told her. "I'm sure we could think of other ways to-"
But a determined Alice was one not easily dissuaded. She kept digging in the bag and pulled out a single foil packet of a different color.
"Two months to spare!" she said triumphantly. "Now, where were we?"
"I think you were planning on having your wicked way with me as long I promised to be quiet."
"Yes, that's how I remember it." She tossed off his jacket and pulled him down on top of her.
They had just started to find a good rhythm when a toilet flushed down the hall. He stopped moving.
"Did you lock the door?" he whispered.
Alice shook her head. "It doesn't lock."
He started to ease out of her and she wrapped her legs around him tightly. "Where do you think you're going?"
He smiled and pressed his forehead to hers, listening for footsteps. Alice put her hand over her mouth, but her shoulders shook gently and he knew she was laughing.
"Hush up, you," he warned. He nudged her with his hips for emphasis, and her hand fell away from her face as she tilted her head back.
Coast clear or not, he started moving slowly and all traces of laughter faded. His head fell to her shoulder and he listened as their breathing became more erratic.
Alice wasn't the shouting type. Now, moans on the other hand… but as she made every effort to not make a sound, she gripped his hair painfully hard and when he pulled his head back to relieve the pressure, he saw that her mouth was open in the most delightfully silent display of a sort of distressed pleasure.
After that, keeping things slow was out of the question and staying quiet… well, if Carol had come down the hall, she'd probably wonder who was having an asthma attack in Alice's room.
Hatter collapsed on her, and she stroked his back idly, their hearts still racing in time. When he could move again, he rolled to her side.
"That was…" he exhaled. Took a breath. "I'm glad we did that."
Alice smiled, eyes closed. "Me, too."
"You don't seem tense at all anymore," he told her.
"No," she said breezily. "I feel perfectly content." She turned her head to him. "You do that to me."
His heart stuttered. Alice.
"I love you," he said softly.
"I know." She smiled. She moved so that her whole body was facing him. "And you know that I love you, right?"
He nodded. I still don't believe it, sometimes. But I know.
"Good." She leaned in and kissed him. "And you're staying the rest of the night, by the way."
Alice slipped out of the bed, and he laid his head on her pillow. Sated and soothed, his body remembered that it was exhausted.
I'll just close my eyes until she comes back.
And then he was gone.
In the morning, the extent of awkwardness was only in that Carol felt bad for not having made a full pot of coffee.