It had only been two days, but Alice had been thinking endlessly about her night visitor. She could wait no longer. She knew him, but she wanted to set about knowing everything about him, immediately.
Sitting on the edge of her bed, having not yet gone through her morning ablutions in her eagerness to attain her desire, she pulled open the drawer and reached for the thimble she knew waited her—she had checked two dozen times, nigh on obsessively. It felt and looked like an average thimble, but it promised so much more.
What had he said? Put it on and think on where you want to be. Couldn't be simpler.
Anticipation made her feel a tingle as she slipped the thimble onto her index finger—a little big, she mused—and thought of Underland.
She expected something. A shimmer, a sudden blackness, a whoosh of air, the sensation of cold or falling through the air, something to indicate that the enchantment was working. But nothing happened. She looked up from her finger and naught had changed. She was still very much in London, in her bedchamber. Not in Underland.
"I've done it wrong," she scolded herself.
Underland was a rather broad location after all and how was the enchantment to know where to deposit her if she thought in such unfocused terms?
Easily enough fixed! This time she squeezed her eyes shut tight and thought of the mad tea table, a place she could recall very exactly in every little detail, which she imagined might be helpful in getting the enchantment to work.
Despite her new attempt, it felt as if she was still upon the bed, and indeed, when she cracked one eye, yet again nothing had changed.
Alice's anticipation began to feel more like panic, her pulse quickening and a fine sheen of sweat breaking out on her brow. Think, Alice, think! There is always a solution. I simply must puzzle it out.
She would think of Tarrant, as he had thought of her.
She tried everything: thinking of Tarrant, thinking of every other creature she could conjure up from her memories of Underland, thinking of every location she could flesh out in her mind, switching the thimble to each of her fingers in turn, opening her eyes, closing her eyes, standing, sitting, and finally, crouching on the ground, fists balled and tears streaming down her face.
Couldn't be simpler.
Weeks passed and London seemed greyer than usual, the company more monotonous than ever. Her mother commented that her skin looked dull, her hair lifeless. Margaret thought her behavior rather better than usual—less brass, more mindful of not standing out for all the wrong reasons.
Perhaps she did not love him enough. Perhaps she was not good enough. Worthy enough.
Time passed most unpleasantly.
Until one evening, having failed to undress for bed, she sat sullenly and whispered to herself, "I've lost my mind," for it appeared that a man was sitting upon the bench at her dressing table in the corner, head hung in silence.
She was conjuring her Hatter up in her mind to fill the emptiness her inability to work the thimble had created in her chest.
"I lost mine long ago."
Alice pinched herself quickly, just to be sure of her wakefulness. "Hatter?" she asked, her voice shaking.
The figure's hatted head rose, his eyes clearly yellow even in the darkness.
"Ye didna come."
Alice stood and rushed to his side, nearly tripping over her skirts in her hurry to get to him. "Look at you! You're here!" she whispered as forcefully as she dared, as she sat on the narrow bench beside him, her skirts spilling over his thigh as she threw her arms about his shoulders. His stiff shoulders. "I tried to come," she murmured against his neck. "You must believe me that I tried."
The only response she received at first was a loan moan, as she pressed a kiss to the underside of his jaw. She recognized that moan, and the sound of it made something within her twist and fidget with want.
Finally, a hand wrapped around his body to rest on her bare arm. "Ye loss the thimmle."
Alice did not have to go to her drawer to fetch it, for it was always in her skirts now, tucked away in a pocket where she might touch it when she doubted that he had ever come to her at all. Slipping her hands from his neck, she fumbled with her skirts until she located the thimble and pulled it out. "It didn't work."
He took it from her and shook his head. "Ye pit it on an' thocht…"
"Of you," she finished for him. "I thought of you, I thought of Underland, of the tea table…Tarrant, I thought and thought of where I wanted to be and nothing happened, nothing came of it at all. I've been stuck here without any recourse. It's very miserable to be able to do Nothing, when I have become used to being useful, accomplishing things. Botheration, Tarrant: I tried."
"I don't understand," he lisped softly, incredulously. "The Queen took great care with them, when I requested it of her. And it is not a difficult enchantment. It is not beyond her skills to fashion such a small thing. I watched her do it, Alice. There is no reason it should not work for you."
"Yours certainly still works, proof as your presence here is. It is mine that has gone wrong, perhaps. Or me: I might be wrong. Have you considered that I might not be good enough?" All of the other creatures of Underland were so exceptionally different—even her Hatter—and she was just a muchy girl from London with odd ideas. It was well enough that she had helped saved them, but she might not be enough like them to warrant an enchanted visit now that all was safe and sound. She might not be good enough for Tarrant.
His ample brows drew together. Reaching up a trembling hand, he touched her elaborately coiffed hair, his thumb brushing against her ear, and not wanting him to stop, she pressed her cheek against his hand as eagerly as a kitten. "Not good enough? You are everything, Alice, everything to me."
"We will table that notion for the moment, then," she conceded. She was sure of his affection, certainly, but one thing did trouble her. "You might have come to me, you know. You needn't have waited for me to come to you," she said, knowing perfectly well that she sounded slightly petulant, when she was nothing but happy to see him and have him with her at long last.
His eyes swirled, changing colors before settling into a greenish yellow. "I wanted you to want me. It was slurvish male pride, Alice. But I…wanted you to want me."
"Oh, but I do," she assured him, instantly sorry that she had reproached him even in the slightest, when he looked so very regretful. Her feminine conceit was just as much at fault as his male pride, no doubt. Being apart only bred misunderstanding. "But you are here now, and I haven't even thought to ask. How are you, dear Tarrant?" she went on affectionately.
Tarrant looked round the room and nodded.
Alice could not fathom his meaning, and she pressed on, "Have you been well? Well and happy?"
He looked round once more, and this time a tear or two trickled down his cheek; but not a word would he say.
"Speak, can't you?" Alice cried.
Tarrant made a desperate effort, and swallowed as if he was gulping down a large piece of bread-and-butter. "I've been getting on very well," he said in a choking voice: "I've only felt down about eighty-seven times. A trifle, really."
"Take me back with you," she said in a hurried rush, gripping with all of her strength the bandaged hand that rested in his lap. "When you leave tonight, take me with you."
"Alice, it can't work like that."
Alice was stubborn. She did not like being told the way things were, when she felt strongly about how they should be. "Nonsense! Hold my hand and we'll think of Underland together. I'm certain we can make it work. We'll travel together."
He smiled weakly at her, before looking down at their hands, his holding her useless thimble in his palm. "Your conviction is most commendable. You have not lost your muchness, I see."
"Course I haven't," she responded leaning into him so as to feel his body against hers once more.
His hand skimmed down her back, settled on her waist and pulled her resolutely against him. A lightening flash of palpable memory brought back to her the accompanying sounds and sensations of him holding the small of her back as he moved atop her.
Sighing as he pressed a kiss to her brow, she tucked her head into the curve of his neck. "We have only to put our minds to it and we will figure it out, surely. Two heads are better than one."
"The Tweedles certainly think so."
"It is so," she said firmly.
Finding her pocket, he stuffed her thimble back inside, patting her skirts once it was safe. "Although their minds are very rarely in agreement."
She ran her finger over one of the buttons on Tarrant's waistcoat, toying with the idea of popping one open. "Ours are—in agreement."
"Not this time, laddie."
Alice huffed. He had been much more accommodating during his last visit, and she was determined to win him over to her way of thinking. "Have some faith," she urged him, sitting upright.
"I have all the faith in the world in you, but I must assure you that the thimble can only carry one." He stopped, his eyes growing large. "Oh, Alice. The thimble can only carry one." His voice sounded raspy and thin.
"Yes, you seem quite certain of that," she said in exasperation.
"Which must mean there are two of you."
Alice tilted her head, "You're not making any sense, dear Hatter."
His hands seized her waist, looking faintly horrified. "Have the birds and bees never given you The Talk?"
She laughed nervously, "Birds and bees don't talk here."
Tarrant's bowtie bobbed as he swallowed. "Then it's no wonder that you know nothing."
Alice could not let such a slight pass by unremarked upon, "I know a great many things."
"Maths and French and other Nonsense, no doubt," he said, his voice rising.
She shushed him, pressing a finger to his lips. "You'll be discovered here if you can't keep quiet."
He nodded and she let her finger slip.
The fleeting touch of his lips to her finger put her in mind of other things, less contentious things. He still had not kissed her. "We managed to be quiet before," she offered, hoping he would grasp her meaning.
"Which is what has gotten us in this bread and butter pickle, which is a great deal more serious than dill," he staged whispered, still holding tight to her waist. "I knew butter wouldn't suit the works. Crumbs from the butter knife find their way in, you know, even if you try to be very careful, and Thackery is not terribly adept at taking great care, and it mattered a great deal, because it was imperative that I know what was day of the month, which is to say if it was…"
Alice cupped his cheeks and drew him firmly towards her, "Tarrant."
He seemed to come back to himself. "Yes, I'm fine. Thank you."
"Everything shall be all right. You'll see," she promised him cheerfully.
"Do you know what day of the month it was?" he asked timidly.
Alice hummed, trying to recall. "Fourteenth of March, I think it was. Or the fifteenth. Or…the sixteenth."
"Oh, dear. You really don't know, do you?" he fretted.
She really did feel sorry that this small detail was upsetting him. "It's no matter," she promised him, patting his cheeks gently.
"Alice, you are in an interesting condition."
Her heart skipped and her hands fell lifeless into her lap. "That's impossible."
His eyes skittered over to her bed. "It must have been Morblesch day. It is most irregular, Alice. Of all the days for it to be and my being from Below and you Above. I did not think. Well, I did, but…I shelved that thought in favor of having you, I'm afraid."
She ignored his mad musings, being a little frantic for want of some sense at the moment. "It is impossible for you to know such a thing," she asserted determinedly, because if she said it as if she Believed it, surely it would be True.
"We'll never get you back to Underland by thimble travel at present." He looked at her as if he was trying to measure her reaction, waiting warily. "Two now, not one."
Her breath was coming fast now. This was an outcome that should have concerned her, but had not. All she had thought of in that moment was her and him and wanting and feeling and…love. And since then she had only thought of seeing him again. "Are you sure?" Even to her own ears she sounded not quite her age but much younger and hopelessly uncertain when she had been so Very Certain just a moment ago.
"As sure as eggs is eggs."
Her mouth was as dry as cotton, when she managed to speak once more, "What will we do?"
Tarrant drew breath, "Would you like to come to Underland?" He paused, looking down at her middle and blinking. "May I invite you to join me?"
Alice licked her lips. She had wanted to go to Underland—desperately!—and it had been her intention to go there, it had nearly broken her when the thimble did not work. "Is there another way to get there?" she asked quietly. "A safe way?" If she was in a family way, she certainly could not fall through a rabbit hole to get to Underland.
"Certainly. Not as simple, but certainly a way where there's a will." His hands tightened about her waist. "Although, you should know something before you consider accepting."
She could not manage to respond, as her mind was reeling.
"I'm a poor man, dearest Alice," he began, in a trembling voice, "and sometimes the bread-and-butter gets so thin. What I could offer you isn't as grand as this," he said, inclining his head to indicate her bedchamber. "But, if you wish it, Alice, I'd have you join me," he spoke hurriedly. "Do you?"
Could he hear her heart thundering away in her chest, she wondered? Oh, to not think! To not think for even a moment! "Tarrant. Kiss me, please."
His lips were upon her with the passion she recalled from their last meeting, although her memories, pleasant though they were, did not fully do it justice. Lacing his fingers in her coiffed hair, no doubt pulling it lose, he held her in place and bit at her lip, tugging insistently. She choked on an urgent cry that began in the recesses of her tightened chest and rushed out as his tongue swept over hers. Her hands found his torso and pressed against the warmth she could feel beneath the layers. His lips sliding against hers, his tongue inside of her mouth as he had once been inside of her…
I'm carrying his child.
In just a matter of minutes she had gone from complete disbelief to almost feeling as if she could sense something there where there had been only her before. The prospect of being with child was terrifying and thrilling. And if she had some time to become accustomed to the thought, it might be a greater share thrilling than terrifying. At the moment, however, the greater part of her was feeling very much as she had on the eve of Frabjous day.
Breaking their kiss, he ran shaking hands over her shoulders and down her arms to clasp her hands in his.
"I'll need time to think about this."
"Dae ye hate me, laddie?"
She could feel him tremble. Brave enough to wield a sword on my behalf, but fearful of my scorn. "Quite the opposite," she murmured.
The tremor turned into a shudder. One of relief, she hoped.
Pulling himself together, Tarrant cleared his throat and spoke with great care, "May I say something?"
Gracious, yes! She needed some words—words of encouragement, kindness, something, for she was feeling more than a little upended. "I should very much like to hear what it is you would say."
"Alice I am…overcome."
"Happy?" she asked, since he looked as if he was holding something back, which was not wholly disagreeable.
"Hopeful you'll let me…you'll allow me…"
Alice bumped his knees with their clasped hands, "Yes?"
"Ye dinna need taken care o' but Ah will tak care o' the bairn gin ye allou me." He squeezed her hands. "Thegither. Here or in Underland."
A selfless offer if ever she had heard one, knowing how it would be if he stayed here with her. "Oh, but you wouldn't like it here."
He frowned. "I like you very well and you're from here."
"And I don't quite fit, Tarrant. Look, this is unexpected, and I need to think, but the simple part is that I wanted to be with you. I want to be with you in Underland. The two of us together." Never mind that it might very well be three.
Releasing her hands, Tarrant turned on the bench to stare forward, frustration etching his features. "I can't take you with me now, Alice. I'm sorry."
As she rested her hand on his thigh, she hummed her recognition of the disagreeable fact. "But you'll send for me." Perhaps Nivens would come to collect her as he had done in the past.
"Oh, no, Alice. I'll come for you myself." Low and rough, his tone conveyed a depth of feeling that words could not. "I'll not leave it to anyone else."
She loved Tarrant. Why should she not have room in her heart for his child, for the two of them both?
Nevertheless, she would worry and fret tomorrow. Tonight still belonged to them.
Alice stood and extended her hand to him. He exhaled noisily, gazing for a moment at her proffered hand until frustration melted away and he placed his stained hand in hers. She hauled him upright and began walking him backwards toward her bed. "But you don't have to go yet."
"No, not yet," he agreed.
She paused before the bed, turning to put her back to him. "Unbutton me?"
She often sent her lady's maid away, preferring to do for herself if she could, but this was something she wanted most fervently.
First a hand came to rest on her hip, and then another traced the slope of her neck, hovering at the first button at the back of her dress. The brush of his torso against her back alerted her to his shifting intentions: he momentarily abandoned undressing her, and the hand at her hip slid to her front, stopping at her middle. It was not the first time she was glad not to be wearing a corset, but the warmth of his hand against her was a novel reason to rejoice in the lack.
And before his meaningfully placed hand could begin to inspire terror in her at what awaited her, them, he stepped back and applied himself to the unbuttoning of her dress with a couturier's care. Instead of anxious concern, she smiled down at the floor, thinking of the pleasure that awaited them here in her bed, and spared a thought for the guarded happiness she felt almost certain her Tarrant entertained at the thought that she was…
Her eyes closed in contemplation, while he continued to unveil her skin to the cooling night air. Truly, why should there not be room? "Tarrant."
"I'll have you know something," she said, as her bodice came free and she slipped her arms free of it.
He had already begun to work at her hair, deftly removing the pins that held it in place when he whispered his reply, "Yes, Alice."
"There is room enough for two."
Note: This second half has bits of dialog from Chapter XI: Who Stole the Tarts? in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Chapter VII: The Lion and the Unicorn in Through the Looking Glass, which are both chapters in which Alice and Hatter (or Hatta) appear.
 In an interesting condition – Victorian euphemism for pregnant
 'Sure as eggs is eggs' is a colloquialism that might come from the mathematical equation x = x.
 Gin – if (Sc)