He knows very well what he looks like.
And he knows it’s not enough.
Never has been, never will be - he’s not the type of man people want, per say, not in an intimate fashion at least. Too long, too lean, too sharp, too keen. Too many scars and too little kindness to spare to fools that expect forgiveness for all and sundry from the damaged. Jonathan’s gotten used to such trivial disappointments over the years, any desire for more-than-platonic company fading in the wake of more important pursuits, like his research, or his birds. Truth be told, he expected to live his life alone, and end it alone - people are trivial, little more than puzzles to pick down and break open until all of their secrets are exposed, all of their fears laid bare for the taking.
He did not, however, count on someone like Jervis Tetch tumbling into his life and smacking through his plans like a well-timed croquet mallet.
But then again, who could feasibly predict someone like Jervis?
Jonathan’s sitting on the edge of Jervis’s well-worn divan, elaborately patterned and patched - he doesn’t know where he finds such furniture, only that he has a knack for it - and waiting for him to return from his puttering round the kitchen. Jervis wanted company for a documentary showing tonight on Lewis Carroll, going so far as to offer coffee if he came by. That in and of itself was a miracle, and one Jon was not going to spit in the eye of.
But, as his reflection sulked back at him from the blank television screen, his stomach clenched, and his thoughts betrayed him; he twisted his fingers together like braids and looked away.
He shouldn’t have come here at all.
As all troublesome thoughts did with him, it started slow - a spark of worry here, a glimmer of admiration there. His hands were quick, his smiles reassuring, his miseries and failures cause for concern instead of callous humor. But Jonathan fully realized how deep he’d fallen down the rabbit hole when he’d found the Hatter squirming in the throws of some distant terror long since passed - and sought to comfort him instead. He, the Master of Fear, soothing someone’s nightmares?! It was unheard of.
But there it was, and there he was, and suddenly he found himself in love. Terrifying, unyielding love, tucked away in the cracks and crevices, waiting to strike like a cancer without warning.
What was worse was it had to be Jervis.
It made sense, of course - they spent the most time together out of anyone of the Rogues. They both were passionate about literature of all kinds (though Jervis tended to focus more on one book than anything, he still adored the printed word just as much as Jonathan), and enjoyed each other’s company. They conversed about anything and nothing and everything in between on regular occurrences. They had roomed together, made plans against the Bat together, even shared lab space without killing each other (and wasn’t that a feat in and of itself?). In all honesty, Jervis was the closest friend he’d ever felt he’d made in his life.
Harley was fickle in conversation, jumping from Carl Jung to Looney Toons faster than you could shake a syringe at. Ivy was someone mostly to complain about other things with in solidarity, or discuss biology with to a particular degree, but they weren’t terribly close. Eddie was always interesting to spend time with, if you could stand the ego trips - the man had enough frequent flier miles on those to fly to the moon and back. Jones was fading into monstrosity, Dent flipped back and forth over everything, and Joker was a non-option. Period.
If he was completely honest with himself, Jervis was the one he bonded with the most.
And he was the one who had to be obsessed with someone else.
Someone so very, very different from Jonathan it was laughable.
Jonathan was his March Hare, and only his March Hare - a companion, like-minded but never the focus, never the point. Jervis wanted an Alice above all else. Someone who clicked into his strange little world, someone who matched. Someone, well. Pretty.
If Jon was ever any of this, he’d die laughing faster than one of Joker’s test subjects.
But as it stood, he was stuck now - too selfish to give up someone so dear, too stubborn to actually say anything, and too stupid to actually leave.
In other words, he was fucked.
“March-y! Would you be a dear and turn the set to channel 9? I’ll be done in a tick, and I won’t be late if you aren’t.”
“Sure.” He flicked the TV on, smearing his face into static as it warmed up and shifted into the news. He fumbled for the remote as Victor’s face popped up on screen; that would explain why it felt so cold lately, when it was barely June.
The ending credits for some popular tv show or another were just finishing up when Jervis bustled in. “Here we are! Feet off the table, please and thank you!” He batted at the long, worn, sock-footed feet with the back of his hand, tutting as he set the tray down with enough pomp and circumstance for the Queen, before settling in close next to Jon.
Ridiculously close, in fact - Jon could barely fit a test tube between them if he were to measure. He eased away into the arm of the divan, tongue in his teeth.
Jervis leaned forward and started to fuss with the cups. “I do appreciate you dropping by, Jon. No one else was interested, can you imagine? I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, so to speak, but it IS nice to be social every once in a while, wouldn’t you agree?” He clinked the edge of his spoon against his cup, before handing it to Jon. “There you are, coffee as promised. A miserable drink, but I keep my words and keep them well - they are so difficult to catch once they’re let loose on the unsuspecting.”
Jon mindlessly took a sip as Jervis chattered on, and had to keep from spitting it out.
Oh good god.
This was the worst coffee he’d ever tasted.
How could someone fuck up a drink so simple so badly?
“Oh dear, they’re starting in with some more advertisements. Never a good sign, that - they’ve barely introduced anything at all. Oh, how is the coffee? I don’t have terribly much experience with it you know, but I think I managed well enough.”
He struggled to swallow it, but his tongue wouldn’t let him. He pressed the cup to his lips, and spat it back in as quiet as he could manage, all the while nodding.
“It’s... passable, for a first attempt.”
But it was worth it, to see Jervis smile as he was now. Beaming like he’d been handed a new hat for his collection, or seen a better-than-average rendition of Alice.
This was why he hated love - it made him stupid. He had three degrees, damnit, he was better than this.
“Oh, that’s positively frabjous, I must say! Now, don’t go thinking I’ll make this all the time, you know - just for special occasions, of course, or for sad ones, like your birthday you know - when is that again?”
“November 16th, I think.” Maybe he could run to the bathroom and rinse his mouth out. With bleach.
“Well, perhaps for then, I could lower myself to make this for you. Tea is better, of course, always has been, always will be, but if it would make you feel better on such a mournful occasion, I might be persuaded. Oh! Do have a biscuit, you’re so thin I could see right through you and then some. I’d offer cake, but the oven swallowed it all, you see - and it got some awful indigestion for it too! - though it would do better to add to you than a biscuit might. Eat, eat, go on! 'She’s kept none for herself, anyhow.”
“Well, ah... alright then.” He cautiously extended a hand towards the platter of elaborate looking treats, eyes darting over to the surprisingly antsy Hatter bouncing lightly in place besides him. Jervis was acting a little... stranger than usual. And heavens all, that was saying something, wasn’t it?
His fingers wavered above what might have been a chocolate biscuit - the icing was so heavy on it he couldn’t really tell - when Jervis moved. “Oh goodness, you should try this one, it’s lovely!”
And before Jonathan could figure out what was happening, Jervis had plucked a biscuit from the tray, and damn near crawled on top of him to place it against his lips. “Open, dear, you’ll like it, I swear.”
He froze, eyes wide and hands trembling five feet apart, as he found himself pinned to the edge of the divan by an extraordinarily enthusiastic Englishman. Shit. Shit shit shit shit shit. Fuck. Why was Jervis acting like this? He was affectionate, true, but this was just - odd. Or, well.
Maybe it was something... else.
Cruelty was an intimacy by now, to him, and Mockery a lifelong associate since childhood. Maybe Jervis... maybe he knew. About his feelings. For him.
It didn’t seem likely - Jervis knew more than most about his social ‘experiences’ growing up, and had gone through his own unfortunate encounters. And he wasn’t unnecessarily unkind, if he could help it - he even took mercy on the Bat, for heaven’s sake - but he didn’t understand what else it could be.
Maybe he was trying to make light of it in a way that said he knew, but didn’t care (or didn’t reciprocate)? He might have gone to Harley for advice (which meant that everyone knew now, fuck all and sundry, Arkham would be hell at the next group session). And, in his usual fashion, had taken the advice to unusual places.
That sounded more likely, he thought as his stomach pitted out. Jonathan hoped he wasn’t being sentimental. How unfortunate it would all be if he was.
Jervis wasn’t smiling anymore, when he came back to himself. He looked a little heartbroken, truth be told, his teeth worrying at his lower lip. “Do you - do you not want a biscuit? I might have some tea sandwiches in the icebox, though they’ll be a bit dry -”
Jonathan gently pushed Jervis off of him, and pulled the biscuit away. Jervis’ hand twitched at the the sudden loss. “It’s fine. You just... caught me off guard, is all.”
“Oh.” He went quiet and turned back to the television screen, leaving an awkward quality and a foot of space between them, hands clasped together like vices. Jon stared at his knees and gently bit into the biscuit.
“Yes?” Jervis moved to face him, eager but hesitant.
He swallowed. “It’s good. I - I like it.”
Blue eyes blinked up at him, then a smile. “Lovely. I - saw them at the market, and I figured it would be a nice addition - fruit preserves in biscuits can go one way or the other or the other or the other, and lately Dormouse has been on me to add some healthier options to the table, and given how you don’t appear too fond to the usual sweeter offerings, I thought - you might like them. So. There’s that.”
“Thank you, then. They’re very good.”
“Good. I’m glad for it.”
“Alright then.” The two went quiet, and returned to the tv screen. Jervis’ leg bounced in place with increasing tempo as he gnawed on his cheek, on the verge of saying... something. Jonathan picked at another biscuit - blackberry instead of peach this time, more’s the pity - and tried to focus on the narrator, when he realized something.
“Shush pet, I’m trying to catch up.”
“Isn’t this the documentary Eddie recorded for you last year?”
“The one you said brought ‘new lows to Wonderland Academia, even beyond the insult of the churlish, immature drug-based Wonderland’? Didn’t you threaten to poison him on the radio for his ‘blasphemies’?”
Jervis went unnervingly still, as the man on-screen blathered on like the academic windbag he was.
“Jervis. Jervis, what’s going on?“
The smaller man glared at the screen, lips pursed.
“Why am I actually here?”
Jonathan frowned. “Jervis, if this is what I think it is, I will not be kind about it. You know how I feel about being mocked like this.”
“Mocked?” Oh now he was paying attention, eyes lit up in outrage. “MOCKED?”
“Yes, mocked,” Jon parroted back. “However you found out about - this, about me, I don’t know and don’t care. Just don’t - shovel cruelty at me like this for whatever amusement you’re gettin’ out of it, and just get it over with, say what you mean to.”
“Amus- you think this is some sort of GAME?”
“Well, what else am I supposed to think here?” Jon said as he rose from his seat. “What are you trying to do t-AH!”
Jervis knocked him back down to the divan, hands clenched tightly over his arms. He struggled, but his grip was tighter than he expected.
“Jervis, let me go.”
“Jervis, let me up, or I swear -”
“I do not appreciate this by any means, I -!”
“Why do you think I would be so heartless and so callous to my Alice?”
“I will- what.” Jon blinked dumbly up at the man who was oh fuck he was pinned again but Jervis was closer now, he could feel his breath on his lips he smelled like mint tea and cloves Gods kill him now he was going to -
Jervis was kissing him.
It was - oh goodness, yes.
One hand carded through his hair, surprisingly gentle, as the other slid down his side and rested on his hip, thumb pressing circles against the crest. Jon shifted, mouth opening in mild protest when he slid closer against him, tongue flickering in. His breath caught in his throat, and his hands shook. He felt dizzy.
He had never been this lucky.
Jervis pulled away and tucked his face into Jon’s neck, nuzzling as he blinked away the spots in his vision. No.
He wasn’t this lucky.
He swallowed the bitter lump in his throat. “I’m not your Alice.”
“Hm? Oh, I know.”
“But I don’t know if I need one, really.” He placed a wet little kiss against his neck, and he squirmed.
“But I - what?” He was more eloquent than this, he knew he was. Jervis settled back and plopped his head on one arm, folded over Jon’s chest like a checkerboard pillow, while the other hand occupied itself by drawing lazy patterns against his collarbone.
“Well, it’s been brought to my attention - a horrible oversight on my part, really, but what else can you do but move forward? - that a Mad Hatter doesn’t really pair well with an Alice. They bicker and argue, and have nothing in common. She doesn’t even appreciate a good tea, or know which way to go! Silly chit, head in all the wrong spots.
BUT - but - a good Hatter ALWAYS has a March Hare with him. They understand each other, even when their respective trades travel in different directions. So, logically, a March Hare is a better bet for a Hatter in love. They at least enjoy each other’s company, if nothing else - and while we do have our differences, I most certainly enjoy yours.”
Jon felt his ears heat up as Jervis grinned at him, like a Cheshire that caught the canary and the cream in one go. “But-”
“But what, darling?”
“You - you just called me your Alice. How can I be both? If you like one, you can’t just -”
“Oh, but I can! In Wonderland, anything’s probable - and there are times when you are very much like Alice. You end up tangled in logic, arguing with flowers and facing against the Jabberwocky far too often not to be AN Alice, at the very least of it.”
“I don’t exactly look like one either,” he mumbled. “Too tall, too thin, red hair - I remember you being very particular about that with other Alice’s.”
Jervis huffed at him and flicked his ear, causing him to jolt. “Who’s to say you can’t be both? You don’t have rabbit ears and a little tail either - unless you’re hiding it somewhere I haven’t seen yet, hm...” He squeezed his backside, eliciting a yelp and a smack against his arm, and smiled. “Besides, I’m not nearly as short as I’m supposed to be, nor do I have red hair and hands smaller than my nose - maybe we’re different versions of it. There’s nothing that says you can’t be both an Alice and a Hare at once - just like there’s nothing to say that Dormouse can’t be a dear entertainer and an outright bore at the same time.”
Jonathan’s lips twitched upwards. “Ahah! There we are, there’s a smile. You look lovely when you smile dear, don’t you realize? But then, you’re always lovely, to me.”
Jervis placed a little kiss on his lips, and rubbed noses. “I actually thought I was being terribly obvious about the whole thing - everyone else thought so, anyways. Eddie thought I wasn’t at all subtle when I offered to make you coffee, given how much I disagree with its very existence on a day-to-day basis. Still, I’m glad to have fooled you, even a little. Makes for a much merrier unbirthday, wouldn’t you agree?”
As the information filtered through Jon’s flush haze, his face burned. No doubt there was a betting ring going on concerning EVERYTHING about them - and no doubt they’d been responsible for the little display Jervis had set up earlier. But then... he couldn’t really say he minded all that much, now could he?
His lips twitched further, and before he could stop himself, he was smiling. He nuzzled back - just a little, of course, but goodness if that smile wasn’t worth it. He was acting ridiculous, like some lovestruck moron who drifted across the road and spattered against the pavement like a bug on a windshield, but he couldn’t quite find it in him to protest the feeling.
It was absolutely lovely.
And fuck it, he was going to enjoy it for everything he could while it lasted. He never had that kind of luck, after all.
His stomach did a ridiculous little twirl, at that - that and the look Jervis gave him, like he was something worth such affection. “Take me to Wonderland.”
Jervis sputtered, and turned bright red.
“On the first date?!?! Never! What kind of scoundrel do you take me for? I believe in taking a little more care in getting to.. to know someone, in that way, and I - I um...” His words devolved into a stammer of noises, as Jon eased his legs around his hips, and slid back into the cushions, ankles crossed.
“Well. Uhhh... yes. M-maybe we could - I g-guess we could, um, get a couple of chapters in, with-without any real, uh, um...” Long, lean fingers cradled his face between them, and he fell quiet.
“Just kiss me already.”
And he did.