He was doing it again. Always, every single day at tea, it was the same routine.
A bandaged hand would hover just over the girl’s, as though prepared to grasp it--and then he’d pull it away, or do a flipping hand gesture with it, and laugh.
Alice would laugh with the Hatter, of course, because the stupid child was completely blind to the facts right in front of her. At the amount of joy and pain she caused all at once in her ‘dear companion’ when she laughed at such a time. Then she’d turn to speak to someone else--Thackery, maybe, or Mallymkun, or occasionally himself--and then the Hatter would start doing that. That which made Chessur, the Cheshire Cat, groan behind his paws at the painful beauty and absolute frustration of the entire situation.
He’d start with the Eye Sex.
Chessur knew his old friend Tarrant would likely be very insulted (as he was very easy to insult these days) at his calling what he did when Alice was unaware of his gaze (that is to say, almost always) Eye Sex. Yet the Cat was not one to mince words. He knew what he saw occurring, and called it as such.
The way the Hatter’s eyes would follow down the length of her arms as spoke, or rest just above her clavicle if she was silent was enough for this designation. But then those eyes would wander to her shoulders, up her neck…
What really drove Chessur wild, made him completely crazy, nay, mad--was when Alice and Tarrant would be talking, and their eyes would meet. Tarrant’s would hold such hope that maybe, maybe this time the girl would see what the Hatter laid bare for her, or that he would find the courage to speak his intentions.
Every time, however, Alice would look away before either happened, a smile upon her face--and the Hatter’s own smile would falter, just a little bit around the edges. Still he would look at her face, desperately awaiting the moment she would turn to him and look at him in the same manner, the day when Chessur imagined she’d say, “Oh, Hatter! I never noticed how violently in love with me you were! My feelings are in perfect accord with yours! Let us away to your bedroom!”
It made the Cat want to howl.
The Hatter was making love to Alice with his eyes every single day at the tea table, and the girl was probably just sitting there contemplating having one lump or two in her next cup.
They’d never get together on their own at this rate.
The Cat evaporated from his chair on the opposite end of the table (where he’d taken to sitting so he could have the best view of the ever-loving Eye Sex) and reappeared on the Hatter’s shoulders, tail winding around his neck. Mouth to the man’s ear, he purred, “Stop mooning and do something, Tarrant!”
The Hatter started as if Chessur had goosed him (and what a fun idea that was, now that he’d had it--he’d have to try that, sometime) before growling, “Get ye down ye mangy cat!” Chessur removed himself from the man’s shoulders post-haste and risked a quick look at Alice. She had not noticed their conversation as of yet, as she was wrapped up in convincing Thackery that spinach scones would not be tasty.
Really, how such an unobservant girl managed to find the proper opportunity to kill a Jabberwocky amazed him. At this moment, though, it served his purposes nicely.
Leaning against one of the warmer tea pots, Chessur said, “Would you like for me to tell her for you, then?”
A bit of a desperate glaze entered into the Hatter’s eyes. “No! I…” Collecting himself, the Hatter said, defensively, “I don’t know what you could mean, Chessur. There is nothing I need to tell anyone. Unless you’re referring to letting Mally know she is getting rather furmious, in which case you are welcome to tell her, and if you do, I shall take back every negative word I ever spoke against your bravery.”
“You know what I mean, Hatter. You. Alice. What you feel for her.”
The Hatter’s eyes nearly bulged out of his head as he looked up sharply to see if Alice had overheard Chessur’s indiscreet remark. She was now involved in removing a spoon coated in honey from the Dormouse’s fur, as the poor creature had not ducked Thackery’s latest projectile in quiet enough time. It was obvious she’d heard nothing.
“Why are you doing this?” the Hatter hissed.
“We’ve all had enough of the Eye Sex, Tarrant. We want more.”
“We?!?” the Hatter cried.
“Yes, we,” Chessur confirmed. “Myself, Mirana, Mallymkun…”
“Oh! That is three ‘M’ names in a row. Good show, Chessur!”
Inclining his head gracefully, the Cat said, “Thank you. As I was saying…”
“Isn’t it unusual that we have so many of our acquaintance that have names that start with the letter ‘M’? Do you think it is simply coincidence, or the result of some larger plan?” The Hatter leaned forward, eyes and face very serious.
“I would hardly call two a great many, Hatter,” the Cat said, very aware that the man was trying to distract his attention from the subject at hand, and amused by it.
“No, no! You said three names, Chessur. You said, ‘Myself, Mirana, Mallymkun’. That is three.” Hatter beamed, proud of his skills in both counting and logic.
Squinting one eye, the Cat replied, “You can hardly count ‘Myself’ as one of those names, Hatta. It is a pronoun, not a proper name.”
“Yet you yourself called you ‘Myself’. Therefore, it is a name in which you are called, even if the only one calling you that is you.” Chessur was just opening is mouth to retort to such a preposterous statement when Alice finally noticed that something was going on at the table beyond herself, Mallymkun, and Thackery’s miniature drama.
“What are you two speaking of?” Her voice was happy and carefree, holding not a hint of accusation or suspicion, yet the Hatter started in his seat, and glanced about guiltily. He said, “Nothing!” at the same time Chessur drawled, “You.”
Alice looked from Chessur to the Hatter and back again. The Hatter still seemed guilty, and he would not meet her eyes. Deciding she would need to focus on Chessur if she wanted to know anything (and she surely did, now that she knew there was something to know), she asked him, “What were you speaking of me for?”
“That is an excellent question, Alice.” praised the Cat. “Tarrant, care to tell Alice exactly what we were discussing?”
The Hatter’s brows were creased in the most spectacular frown, and black ringed his eyes as he stared at the Cat. “If ye werena able to evaporate, I’d strangle ye,” he whispered to the Cat. Alice could still hear him, however, and was now alarmed.
“Did I do something wrong? Is something the matter?” she asked, sounding very afraid she had somehow offended her host and he was simply too polite to tell her. Alice had confided in the past to Chessur of this concern, saying she wouldn’t have worried about such a possibility, as Hatter was always so frank with her, but she felt the longer their acquaintance went on, the most polite and formal he became. It was vexing, she said, as it was his lack of propriety that she had enjoyed so much. She reached across the table and grasped his hand.
A strangled gasp escaped the Hatter’s lips at the sudden contact, and he jerked his head up and looked into Alice’s eyes before he could stop himself from doing so. They locked gazes, and the depth of emotion there had Alice gasping herself.
He had been wrong, Chessur thought a bit ruefully. Tarrant and Alice had never really had Eye Sex before. It was all Eye Foreplay. He knew this, because in that moment, right then, they were actually having Eye Sex--a giving and taking of emotions that made his head swim in the best possible way.
A charged silence filled the air, no one at the table moving for several seconds as they all held their collective breath. (They had all been waiting a very long time for this, after all.) Then Chessur roused himself, and said to Mallymkun and Thackery in a low voice, “Come along. We’re simply ancillary at this point.” Acquiescing gracefully, the guests of the party crept away as quietly as possible, not that the Hatter or Alice even noticed their presence at that moment. When they were all gone, Alice spoke.
“Why did you never say anything to me?”
Not removing his eyes from hers, the Hatter said, “There was nothing to say. You are you and I am simply…mad.” He finally looked away from her, his clothes darkening in shame. “I should not even look upon you so. The Cat called it True; I have behaved in a most ungentlemanly manner.”
“You should not even look at me how?” Alice asked, piqued that the Cat should make the Hatter feel poorly about himself in any way. She would have some words for Chessur, later.
Unexpectedly, a hectic flush crawled up Hatter’s neck and stained his cheeks. The conversation had been opened; best to just finish it, have her slap him, and flounce away, he thought. That way he could commence with the Tea of Depression forthwith. “H-he said…h-he called it…”
Deciding to spit out the words as quickly as possible, the Hatter said, “Chessur told me that I was engaging in sexual relations with you, using my eyes.”
More silence blanketed the table as Alice absorbed this information.
“He said we were…having Eye Sex?”
Startled, the Hatter grabbed a hold of his hat so it didn’t fall off his head. “Wherever did you hear that term?”
A secret smile graced Alice’s lips. “I’ll ask you again, Hatter. Why did you never say anything to me?”
“You knew?” he gasped.
“I suspected,” Alice confirmed. “Did you think me completely unobservant?”
From up in the tree branches above the table, where Mallymkun, Chessur, and Thackery had hidden to watch the drama unfold, the Cat murmured, “I certainly did.”
“Hush you! We’ll miss something!” Mally ordered.
“Leaf!” Thackery gurgled.
“No, I would never…but yet…I don’t…”
Alice stroked Tarrant’s hand. “Hatter. It’s just me. Alice.” She looked at their joined hands. “I’m not going to disappear. I know now what you haven’t been saying. But I still need you to tell me. Please?”
The ‘please’ nearly undid the Hatter. Taking his free hand and gently tipping her chin upward, so their gazes locked again (which caused Chessur and Mallymkun to sigh, and Thackery to lick the bark of the tree), he said, “Alice. Dear Alice. I most ardently admire and lo-”
“Hello, Hatta! Alice!” the White Queen floated into the clearing, hands held high in the air and a pleased smile on her face. “I’m terribly sorry that I am late, but there was an issue with my horse, he had a stomach ailment, had to stop every half kilometer! But on the positive side I was able to collect quite a bit of--” Mirana stopped speaking abruptly when she noticed the scene she had just interrupted.
“Oh. Oh my. I am…very sorry…” Backing up slowly, a bit of a mischievous grin on her face, Mirana said, “Ignore me! Carry on! I’ll just go away and be…away!” She turned to go, then stopped, let out a girlish little squeal, and rushed to the table. She kissed both Hatter and Alice upon the cheek. “I’m so happy for you!” she enthused, before turning around and exiting the clearing again, her voice calling out behind her, “I’m really leaving this time! Please continue! I’ll be here when you’re done!”
Hatter and Alice had been staring at the Queen with equal looks of disbelief etched on their faces. They turned to face one another once again, and erupted into giggles. Hatter’s face regained seriousness before Alice’s did, but she quickly sobered when she saw his ernest expression. “I do, you know,” he told her. “Very much so.”
“You were given an order by royalty, sir,” Alice said, arching a brow. “She said to carry on, I seem to distinctly recall. So I suggest, unless you wish to be considered a treasonous creature, to do as your Queen demanded of you.”
Smiling wide, the Hatter said, “Alice, I lo-”
A clattering thud interrupted the Hatter as a furry blur crashed into the tea service upon the table. Mallymkun lay sprawled before them, limbs akimbo. “Ow,” she simply said.
A quick perusal of the tree above them (for Alice and Hatter were clever enough to realize that Mally had to have fallen from there) and Chessur and Thackery were soon discovered hiding poorly among the leaves. Smiling weakly, Chessur said to Mally, “I told you not to lean forward like that.” He turned his attention to the Hatter and Alice. “Heh. Mice, they never listen.”
Lips pressed into a thin line, Alice stood up, still holding the Hatter’s hand. “I have had quite enough of this!” she declared. “What is next, the Dodo strolling through just to say hello? Absolem winging in and winking at us?” Tugging the man forward, Alice said, “Come along, Hatter. Take me to your room. Perhaps there we could have some privacy?”
Pandemonium broke out at the table. Thackery threw himself from the tree to reach his scones, which he crumbled to bits and tossed in the air like confetti. Chessur went to Mallymkun, who fainted away at Alice’s bold statement, and the White Queen re-entered the clearing, twirling past the trees.
Tarrant did not need for Alice to make her suggestion twice. Gathering a firmer hold on her hand, he nearly dragged Alice up the stoop of the Windmill House in his haste. He paused for a moment on the threshold, searching Alice’s brown eyes deeply. “Are ye sure of this, lass?” he asked. “For if ye are suggesting what I hope ye are, please know--it is the same as a marriage, here in Underland. If ye become mine, ye’re mine forever.”
Joy lit Alice from within. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.” She leaned forward and kissed him, a brief swift pressing of the lips. “Now are you going to take me to your room or not?”
Whooping in elation, the Hatter scooped Alice into his arms and carried her across the threshold. He paused only long enough to shout at the small crowd that was forming (as various birds and animals were stopping to see what all the commotion was about) “And ye all! Stay OUT!” A kick to the door shut it hard enough to shake the whole house.
“But we want to see you say the words!” Mirana wailed, like a child refused a treat it had been promised.
“Oh, leave them be, Mirana,” Chessur said, twirling towards her on a current of air. “They’re together now. You may thank me at any time.”
“You do know what this means, don’t you Chessur?” Mirana asked.
“What is that, my Queen?”
“It means we don’t get to watch anymore Unfulfilled Eye Sex. Now we’ll simply be left with Definitely Leading to Actual Sex Eye Sex.”
Mallymkun, who had stirred just enough to be aware again, promptly fainted at hearing the White Queen say such a statement. (It must be said that, while Mallymkun was normally a Dormouse of extreme bravery and vigor, she was also secretly a hopeless romantic, and was simply overcome with delight on their behalf.)
“I think we can live with that.” Chessur grinned. “Or, most of us can. I don’t know if dear Mally will ever recover. Mally, do wake up. They’ll have to leave the House eventually, and you won’t want to miss their faces when they realize we could hear everything.”