Continuing Tales

One Promise Kept: Book 3

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by Manniness

Part 2 of 22

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“I’ve just a thing or two to do in the workshop,” he’d said. “Go on to bed.”

He’d lost an hour when she’d asked him to lie down with her. Lost an hour, but gained a sense of peace and tranquility that he wouldn’t trade for anything. The memory of his wife’s face, surrendered to the exhaustion that she can’t always fight and finally relaxed in sleep; the feel of her body curled toward his like a flower turned toward the sun; the heat of her breaths – no, both her breaths and his littlin’s, for she breathes for both of them, doesn’t she? – against his arm though the fabric of his shirt: these things keep him company now as he works his way toward midnight.

A thing or two to do. Yes, that is exactly what Tarrant does. The task that occupies his time now is rhythmic, simple, and repetitious. After being at it for so long, his hands move from memory. From the corner of his workshop, the sound of the loom booms in the silence, but he doesn’t care who he wakes and as soundly as Alice has taken to sleeping these past not-quite-three months, he doubts – if he wakes anyone – it will be her. This is his last chance to finish and he will finish In Time!

Sometimes he has to pause and reapply the fabric pins before he can continue weaving. Sometimes he has to stop and fold the finished length of cloth over his lap lest it develop unseemly wrinkles. Sometimes he has to ignore the fact that the wool is not as fine nor the weaving as uniform as it ought to be.

After all, he’s never made a tartan this way before. His Fa had. His Fa had shown him how to do it, but that had been so Long Ago... And Tarrant had nearly forgotten the rite altogether what with he and Alice living in the White Queen’s castle and only rarely meeting with other Outlanders.


Tarrant glowers as he jabs the fabric pin a bit more viciously than is strictly necessary.

Other Outlanders, like the Irondirks: skilled smithies and fighters, the lot of them, but Tarrant knows what that man’s role had been in pushing his Alice into madness. He’d even watched as that man had tried to kill her on the battlefield!

Lickspittle, pilgar-suckling, shukm-greizin’...!

Tarrant lifts his hands from the loom, closes his eyes, focuses on the warm, steady pulse – Alice’s pulse! Their littlin’s pulse! – of his Heart Mark, and takes a deep breath.

Calm again, he admits that although he is not fond of Davon Irondirk – no, not fond AT ALL! – for some odd reason, Alice finds the man amusing.

And speaking of Outlanders and other things he’s most assuredly Not Fond of...

It had driven Tarrant to distraction when his Alice had gone to Salazen Grum to help Fenruffle sort out the property deeds amongst the new citizens of the White Realm. He’d only lasted two days before he’d asked one of the horses to take him there so he could see for himself that his Alice was safe.

At least she hadn’t been angry with him for that. She could have been, he knows. She could have accused him of not trusting her ability to look after herself. But she hadn’t. And, with a single look, he’d known she wouldn’t. His need to see her had had nothing to do with a lack of trust and everything to do with his own weakness: he’d spent twenty-three days without her and the final seven of those in fear for her, not knowing what she was doing or what she was being forced to endure. He had not been able to withstand Not Knowing a second time.

In Salazen Grum, he’d kept himself busy and out of her way – Alice had been working, after all! – instructing the children of the former mercenaries in the art of basic clothing repair, and he’d also assisted the wives and mothers with clothing alteration techniques, and – before he’d known it – Alice had announced that it was time to go home.

Strangely, in that moment, he’d thought of Iplam.

And he’d kept on thinking of it even after they’d arrived in Mamoreal.

And so, the following spring, Tarrant had asked his Alice for the biggest and Most Important Favor he’d yet dared to request:

“Will ye help me rebuild Hightopp Village?”

And she had. Every summer, they’d gone back to build: a guest cottage first, then the bath house and the kitchens. After that, it had taken three years to complete and furnish the Main House. In the process, they’d cleared out the debris from the well, torn down the shambles of the stables, and put up a new storehouse for harvested edibles. Not that there are any edibles to harvest from Iplam at the moment, but... someday... there might be...

Aye, someday ye might go back there, lad. When ye’ve resigned yer post... When Alice’as found a worthy replacement fer th’Queen’s Champion...

Tarrant dares to Wonder about that future, about their child’s place in it...

He has to pull his hands away from the loom and press the heels of his hands against his eyes to keep the simmering heat of tears from pushing out. He can still barely – hardly, scarcely, dare to! – Believe that Alice had agreed to... that she wants his... wants him to be a...

He can’t think It. Not now. Not when it’s late and he’s too tired to keep the emotion from erupting out of him and waking his wife.

His wife. Yet another miracle he cannot Think About without feeling utterly overwhelmed.

Tarrant reaches for the pin again, jabs it ten times, then turns back to the loom, to the tartan his wife will need if she’s going to be a right-proper Lady Hightopp of Iplam! He doesn’t glance at the clock, for as long as the window beside him is dark, there’s still Time to finish, Time yet to complete and then bestow the honor upon his wife that is hers by right, Time yet to fulfill his duty to her as the Laird of Iplam, Time yet to marvel that he is even Here, Now, doing This at all.


“Did you manage any sleep last night?” Alice gently asks him when he jerks himself awake for the two-and-two-thirds times four-hatpins-and-a-silver-ring time since beginning the familiar journey.

“So sorry,” he mumbles, both to the horse that had kindly volunteered to be his mount and to Alice whom he’s sure had been telling him something interesting or important or impressive (Perhaps today is an “I” day?) just now. “Preparing. Much to do. Be done. Was done. Prepared and now packed... Hm, perhaps it’s a day for considering words that start with the letter ‘P’...” And, upon hearing himself say that utter rubbish, Tarrant gives himself yet another shake. “So sorry, Alice. What were you saying?”

“Would you like to stop for tea?” she says patiently.

“Don’t know about this droopy bloke,” Tarrant’s steed, a fellow by the name of Fitzfrey, interjects, “but I could do with a bucket or two.”

“I’ll second that,” Alice’s mount – Winsommer – adds. “Did you pack any sugar cubes, love?” The horse glances back at Alice.

“A bag or several.”

“This looks like a good place to stop, then,” Fitzfrey decides and wanders off the trail to a small, cozy-looking break amongst the budding trees. Tarrant struggles to keep his balance as the beast navigates the softer, uneven earth of the forest floor.

“Tarrant?” Alice asks worriedly.

Winsommer snorts. “Dismount before you disgrace yourself, Hatter.”

“An excellent idea,” he mumbles in agreement. Fitzfrey holds still while Tarrant attempts to gingerly swing his leg over the saddle. He moves so carefully that Alice has plenty of time to slide down from her mount and assist him with stepping down from his.

“So sorry,” he thinks he says again as he stumbles against her.

“It’s fine. Now, sit here. Good. Relax for a bit and I’ll make tea.”

“Hrmmphlff...” he thanks her. Tarrant leans back against the trunk of a Tumtum tree (which feels far too soft to be possible) and his hat tilts over his eyes and...

... the next thing he knows, he’s laid out on a bedroll with a warm arm wrapped around his shoulder. Blinking, he takes in the late afternoon light filtering down through the still-scanty forest canopy.

“We’re late,” he says. His voice sounds rough and scratchy to his own ears. He clears his throat.

“A bit. It’s your fault for staying up all night. Naughty,” Alice informs him.

He feels her amusement against his heart and finds himself giggling. “And I’ve missed tea.”

“It’s not gone brillig yet,” Alice informs him, sitting up.

He rolls over and watches her stoke the small fire and place the kettle on it. The nearby Tumtum trees groan worriedly.

Alice reaches out and absently pats the trunk of one. “I’m not taking my eyes off of the fire this time,” she assures the forest.

Tarrant’s brows arc in inquiry. Alice sighs. “I just turned away for a moment to get the buckets and cups and...”

“Yes,” he agrees. “Moments do tend to get away from one when one’s not paying attention!”

“In any case, no harm done.”

The trees shiver.

Tarrant considers his wife. He watches as she adds the tea leaves then closes her eyes and tilts her head to the side just so...

Listening to the tea leaves steeping!

He smiles and he’s still smiling when she hands him a cup of perfectly brewed black tea.

“Winsommer finished off nearly all of the sugar cubes,” Alice tells him as she draws something out of her pocket. “But I hid a few...”

Tarrant holds out his cup and accepts two. “Thank you, Alice.” He holds out his arm and, collecting her own cup, she sits next to him, pressing against his side.

“Are you nervous?” Alice asks after a moment of companionable, tea-sipping silence.

“I don’t think I’d mind overly much should Fitzfrey or Winsommer wander by and see us sitting here...”

She snorts. “I meant about the Maigh.”



Tarrant stalls by blowing across his cup, taking a sip, and then playing with Alice’s short hair. She turns to kiss his fingertips.


“What?” he asks, surprised by her scandalized tone.

What?! WHAT?!” She sends him a disbelieving look. “What have you done to your poor fingers? Does your other hand look like this?”

Tarrant winces as she grasps his palm and examines his many-times-punctured and still-raw fingertips.

Ye fergot th’Pain Paste, lad.


“’Tis fine, Alice,” he assures her.

“No, it’s not.”

She moves to stand, but he tightens his arm around her shoulders. “Later. Just... jus’ stay wi’me fer nauw?” he whispers against her hair. After a moment, Alice relaxes against him, as he’d known she would. Yes, sometimes Outlandish is very Useful.

“You didn’t answer my question,” she reminds him.

When she picks up her teacup again, Tarrant says, “I will. Tomorrow. Ask me another answer for now.”

Alice gives him a wry smile. “Mirana says the Hightopps are quite highly regarded by the other clans.”

“Ah...” he murmurs, surprised by Alice’s choice of answer to ask. “Well, tha’tis a bit o’a long story...”

“The horses are foraging. I think they’ll be a while yet.”

He finishes his tea and leans back against a particularly fat and comfortable-looking Tumtum tree. Alice settles against him. He begins, “Long, long ago, when Underland had no kings or queens or boundaries or borders, the people and animals and plants lived as they wished. Or as they wished they could, for there was one problem and ‘twas the seasons.

“The seasons came and went whenever they felt like it and Winter in particular was rather reluctant to move on once he’d arrived. The Hightopps – a modest clan of tailors then – got the Idea to host a party. A Farewell Party for Winter, actually. Hoped to tire the fellow out and send him off to bed so that Spring might be able to stop by for a visit.”

Tarrant pauses and leans his cheek against Alice’s hair, closes his eyes, and waits for her to prompt him for more, which she unfailingly does whenever he tells her a story:

“What happened?” her ever-burning curiosity makes her ask.

He smiles against her hair.

“Well, the festival was a success; all the dancing – the first Futterwhacken, actually – and singing and the be-ribboning of the Maypoles... well, the merriment wore poor old Winter out and he toddled off home. When Spring arrived, of course, the party became a Welcome Party and there was more dancing – better Futterwhacken this time as everyone was so happy to see that the plan had worked – and more singing and more ribbons on the Maypoles... Spring was so overjoyed to be Welcomed so warmly that he gave the Hightopps a very special gift.”

Again, he waits. And again, she pushes for more: “What was the gift, Hatter?”

“Guess, my Alice.”

She considers it for a few moments. “Spring taught the Hightopps how to make hats, to keep their heads dry during the spring showers?”

“An excellent guess, but...”

“Not the right one. All right...” He can nearly feel the thoughts churning within her head. He sighs, content. He loves nearly feeling Alice’s thoughts.

“He gave Iplam to the Hightopps?”

“No. Try again.”

She sighs, thinks, and – hesitantly – says, “Spring gave you all the colors in your eyes?”

He giggles, pleased. “You’ve guessed it, Alice! Well, nearly...” He stretches out his arm so that she can clearly see his jacket sleeve and cuff. “Not only our eyes change color with our mood,” he tells her and, concentrating on how very Much he Loves his Alice, Tarrant watches with her as his shirt cuff turns from a pale pink – his usual color of contentment – into a rich lavender.

“Of course, my eyes change color faster. They’re connected, you see. Clothing needs a bit of time and responds to one’s overall disposition.”

Alice reaches out and touches his cuff and then moves to his jacket sleeve which is starting to slowly molt into indigo from plum. “You know...” she muses aloud. “I have no idea why I never asked about that. I suppose I just thought it was something you could do, being a milliner.”

Tarrant giggles again. “I was rather surprised you didn’t ask, either!”

“Why did Spring give the Hightopps so many colors? The ability to effect them, I mean?”

Finally, he concludes the tale that’s been passed down through his family for generations: “So that we need never be surrounded by the Grey of Winter again.”

“That’s a beautiful story, Tarrant,” she rewards him, turning so that he can see her smile.

“I’m glad you liked it, Raven.”

For a long moment, there is only he and she and the warm pleasure that comes from a gently told, sweetly ending tale. And then her smile fades. Tarrant moves his hands to her arms as if to hold her in that moment of happiness with him.

“I’m sorry. About the winter, I mean.” Looking very sad, Alice explains, “You were very... grey when I arrived, late for tea on Griblig Day. And...” She raises a hand and lays it against his cheek. “For so long you were so pale...”

“And had you not returned to Underland, Alice, I would still be living in those Grey Days, but you did return and so I am no longer required to kill Time and I think – that is, I believe – that I shall never be forced to do so again. I have faith in us, you see,” he explains as the words come to him. “Perhaps I’m not so pale now because I am not so frightened of being alone.”

Alice’s response to this simply-stated declaration exceeds his expectations. She sits up, swings her leg around and straddles his lap. Petting his face and paying particular attention to his brows and mouth and the skin under his eyes – eyes which he’s sure must be Glowing at this point – she brushes a whisper against his lips:

“I choose us.”

Even after seven years, those three words still have the power to make him come Undone.

Perhaps now, even more so. Now that us is no longer just the two of them. He closes his eyes and fights against the shudder that threatens to jumble his thoughts. Dear Fates, what would he do if something were to happen to his Alice now?

“It’s all right,” she whispers.

His worries recede enough for him to notice that she’s combing her fingers through his hair. “I’m sorry,” Tarrant tells her. “I...”

“Worry,” she finishes. “I know. It’s all right.”

Perhaps it is. Perhaps it isn’t. But his wife’s voice and hands and Real-ness make it seem so. “Shall we call for the horses?” he asks, finally.

“I suppose we should. It’s getting late.”

The ride to Iplam is brief and Tarrant thanks the horses before helping them with their tack. He opens the storehouse for them while Alice takes their things to the guest cottage. He’d been afraid she would mind not staying in the Main House, but she hadn’t.

“We’ll need the room if it rains,” she’d assumed aloud.

Tarrant had shaken his head. “It’s not the weather we have to worry about. This is Spring’s party, after all.”

“So what will we need it for?”

Tarrant had grinned. “For the newlyweds.”

“The newlyweds?”

“Yes, yes. On the first full day – the day of the Maigh – there’s the Declaration of Vows, at which time those that have been hand-fasting or betrothed or promised to each other since the previous Maigh will state their vows and be wed.”

Alice had glanced around the clearing nervously. “Oh. That changes things. I ought to have asked Mirana for something to decorate—”

Tarrant had shushed her with a finger placed gently against her lips. “Traditionally, that’s for the guests to bring. Everything is just as it should be.”

With a small smile, Alice had relaxed and noted, “We already made our Declarations here, didn’t we?” She’d lifted her left hand and placed it over his heart.

Transfixed by the sight of the ring – his ring – still on her finger, he’d merely nodded.

“So we’ll be putting the newly wed couples in the guest bedrooms of the Main House?”

Another nod.

“Where they can make as much noise as they like and it won’t bother the rest of us?”

A giggle. “More likely, the noise from the party will bother them. It’s one party,” he’d clarified at her puzzled look. “And it lasts from brillig on the Eve of Maigh to the morning after Maigh.”

“So... what? No one sleeps?”

“Only when absolutely necessary!”

And so, while they’d had the chance, they’d gone to bed and gotten a good deal of sound slumber in.

The next morning had been a busy one: unpacking, airing out the mattresses in the Main House, opening up the kitchen and the bath house. And then, suddenly, with the arrival of the Queen’s Guard, things had gotten considerably busier! But now that the soldiers have gone back to Mamoreal, things are quiet once again. Quiet, and ready for the arrival of the first wave of guests.

The tents have been erected and the kitchen and bath house stocked. There’s stew in the cauldron and bread warming in the clay ovens. Even the flowers had been managed; Alice had asked the First Flower to tell the others to remain underground for a few days lest they be picked or trampled by the guests.

Yes, all is ready. Or, very nearly. He can feel brillig’s relentless approach as Tarrant considers the clearing and the spot he’d dug for the Maypole.

“Do you need some help with that?”

He does, but he’d rather not ask for Alice’s assistance. “The pole’s too heavy for you to lift,” he replies, mulling over the problem of placing the base in the hole he’d dug and then holding it steady while he fills it in.

“I can lift a shovel,” she reminds him.

Tarrant glances at her stomach, still normally shaped, of course! That still startles him: knowing their child is within her and yet inconceivably small yet... That lack of evidence never ceases to frighten him. Sometimes he thinks he must have dreamed up that childbearing rite or that he’s dreaming now and any moment he’ll wake up not expecting to be a father... He shakes his head, denies the fear its usual foothold.

“No shovel,” he tells her. “’Tis nae good fer yer back.”

Crossing her arms, Alice gives him a droll look. “I can at least brace the Maypole, can’t I? That won’t strain anything.”

Tarrant feels himself blush at her tone. He knows he’s being Overprotective but, brangergain i’tall! he hardly ever has the opportunity to protect his Alice! He’d like to do a good job of it despite his lack of recent experience!

“D’nae take tha’ tone wi’me!” he replies. He hears himself, knows his tone is a tad too sharp but can do nothing about it. “’Tis a husband’s right teh worry abou’ his wife whilst she’s a-carryin’ his littlin’!”

Alice blinks at him, shocked. Tarrant’s a little shocked at himself as well. His words seem to echo in the field, bouncing back and forth between the sparse collection of buildings. This is the first time he’s spoken those words aloud beyond the safety of their apartment. For an instant, he feels a swelling wave of panic: Has he been dreaming after all?

He watches as Alice draws closer to him. The panic wars with his remorse at having shouted at her. She places her hands on his arms, then, after studying his expression for a moment, wraps those slender arms around him.

“I’m fine,” she says. “We’re fine. We’re all fine. And I want to help.”

He presses his palms against her belly before sliding his hands around her waist. “So sorry, Alice,” he lisps into her ear. In truth, he’s not even sure why he’d suddenly snapped.

“It’s my fault as well. I don’t mean to... mock you.”

Is that what she’d done? Is that what had just happened? Tarrant frowns. Surely not! No, the blame for his outburst must lie elsewhere. Haltingly, he reminds her, “I’m still mad, Alice. Sometimes, my mind... it... I can’t... I’m not sure of anything... except that I’m mad sometimes. Still.”

She sighs. “How many times have I told you that all the best people are?”

“An’ I’m slurvish...” he continues in a daze. “Mayhap I shoul’nae’ve agreed teh... The littlin’, Alice, I could... I might...” Oh, why had he thought he could do this? Be a father? Be a child’s mad hatter of a father?

“But I was so, so happy when you asked me, Alice,” he can’t stop himself from adding. The words help him focus on staying calm. “All I could think was... I want this. Him. Her. Her. Him. With you and...”

“Hush,” Alice croons, rubbing her hands over his back. “You are allowed to doubt.”

It’s such a simple sentence and yet the Relief he feels is incredible.

“Am I?”

“Yes. Yes, you are.” Alice takes a step back and meets his still-worried gaze. “But I know exactly who you are. I knew it when I asked if you wanted this. Do you trust my decision?”

Well, when it’s put that way...

Tarrant closes his eyes and nods. “Alice?” He takes a deep breath. “If... sometimes, I start to... I become... a little frightened... could you... would you...?”

“Yes,” she promises. “I’ll tell you: You can do this. You’re not alone.” She reaches for his left hand a presses his palm over her belly then covers it with her own: two heart lines and a babe. “Together, remember?”

“Everything. Perfect. Together,” he agrees and settles his lips against hers.

Alice lifts her arms to his shoulders. Her fingertips tickle the back of his neck and the edge of his ear. The soft, whispering touch of her lips becomes firmer as his arms pull her closer.

“The Maypole?” she murmurs against his mouth when the kiss, rather than ending, becomes a massage of warm lips and hot breaths.

He answers her by easing his tongue between her lips. Alice moans with needy surprise as he brushes his tongue against hers with gentle, shallow strokes. He knows she likes this sort of Kissing best... His palms smooth up her sides until his thumbs are resting just against the underside of each breast. She moves against him, impatient.

Pulling away, she takes a step toward the guest cottage. “Come inside,” she whispers.

He shivers at the words, spoken innocently but taken in more ways than one. “I intend to,” he replies, following in her wake. Somehow he makes it through the door, remembers to close it behind him, navigates the cluttered room and meets Alice on the mattress.

“They’ll be here soon,” she warns into his mouth then surrenders to his kiss.

The buttons of her tunic part for his fingers with ease. He nuzzles her neck and growls. “We’ll take as much or as little time as we like.”

He feels the heat of her hands move down his shirt, leaving undone buttons in their wake.


Hmm. Last chance for days,” she pants.

“Bloody Maigh,” he agrees, working her trousers down her hips and then helping her kick off her boots.

“Lovely rhyme,” she murmurs and, amazingly, Tarrant doesn’t spare the observation a thought. No, his entire focus is bent upon the woman beneath him, the child she carries, the fire in his blood, her blood, their blood.

In the years of passion they’ve enjoyed, Tarrant has learned exactly where, exactly how to touch his wife to make her the most impatient. He deliberately uses that knowledge now, not because they’re pressed for time, but because he wants to – needs to – see that Desire in her unfocused eyes; he thirsts to witness her expression tense with Pleasure; his skin burns to feel her Reaching for him, drawing him closer, deeper...


And his name in her gasping, breathless voice... He leans down and moans against her throat, licking, sucking, kissing...

Alice rolls her hips against his and hisses. He whimpers at the feel of her – hot, soft, wet – against him.

She urges, “Don’t make me wait.”

He doesn’t.

Perfect things, Tarrant has learned, rarely last for more than an instant, a moment. This perfect thing – this... with Alice – lasts much longer than a moment, and yet it is always too brief, too fleeting. This perfect moment when Tarrant is whole and his past and his madness as his love for Alice all come together into something so overwhelmingly beautiful and breathtaking... He knows why this perfection cannot last forever – for if it did how would he ever know what he was feeling was so very Precious? – yet he also knows that when it is over, another perfect thing will be waiting for him, for her, for them: the perfection of their life together.

She shudders, tenses against and around him. Comes. He doesn’t stop. Tarrant knows his Alice is capable of much more pleasure than this. He moves within her until she stirs, moaning, and moves with him again and again and again and again...!

The second time she comes, he pauses long enough to rectify the neglect he’d forced upon her breasts. Moments later – more blissfully Perfect Moments later – when she writhes, he kisses her neck and Moves. She gasps, arches toward him, and the friction and the angle must be Perfect because...

... because she’s coming again!


He whispers her name against her throat, leans back and rubs her from the inside out until he has no other thoughts except how Lovely she is caught up in her passion and how her eyes are very nearly violet with Desire and Need... And then he feels his own release building and it’s too soon!

Always too soon!

But he can’t stop it, can’t help it, can’t avoid it, and he brushes his fingers over that sensitive place just within her body, just above the place where they’re joined and...

... and...

... and they come.

When awareness returns to him, it comes in the form of sound and touch: of panting breaths and racing heartbeats. He kisses her as he withdraws.

Nnngh,” she informs him. And then her eyelashes flutter open and she smiles. “I’d say I’m sorry I didn’t help you with the Maypole, except...” Her gaze moves down his body suggestively. Her lips twitch. “Except, if I’m not mistaken, I think I just did.”

Tarrant presses his face to the inside of her bent knee and cackles, snorts, and giggles. “Naughty...” he tells her skin. When he looks up, they share a grin that’s luminous with their own unique kind of madness. “Thank you, Alice. I can always count on you for assistance.”

She laughs out loud.

They dare to linger in bed for a few more minutes, touching, murmuring, ignoring the fact that they have not killed Time at all and brillig is drawing ever closer.

“Well, Lady Hightopp,” Tarrant says with finality, “I cannot have you greeting our guests dressed like that.

“Is the tunic too much?” she dares, indicating the one garment that had never been removed entirely.

“Too Mamoreal,” he corrects her with a soft kiss. Uncaring of his own state of undress, he kneels over a trunk that the queen’s soldiers had delivered that morning. Opening the lid, he gently removes the accessory he seeks. With a wide grin, he turns and settles the mahogany-colored top hat on her head. Alice laughs and investigates the edge of the brim with her fingertips.

While she’s distracted, Tarrant turns back to the trunk and removes the other item – the garment – he seeks. He pauses momentarily, recalling the weeks he’d spent at the loom working on this very fabric, and then offers it to Alice. With a confused smile, she accepts it and allows it to unfold.

“These are the Hightopp colors,” she observes wonderingly.

“Aye,” he says. He knows he ought to get dressed but he can’t stop himself from enjoying Alice’s reaction to the fullest before that.

She runs her hand over the garment, down the soft, white chemise and the bodice and then the skirt itself.

“There’s more,” he tells her abruptly, unfurling a scarf and placing a brooch – a silver top hat – upon the bed.

“Where... Tarrant, where did you find your clan’s tartan?”

He sits down on the bed beside her. “I didn’t. I made it.” He knows he could let the explanation die there, except he’d promised to tell her what he’d done to his fingers, so he holds them up and waggles them to catch her attention.

It works. With a flash of intuition, she accuses, “You let a loom do that to your fingers?!”

Tarrant shakes his head slowly. “’Tis th’ o’ly way teh make th’ Hightopp colors fer someone who wasnae born inteh th’ clan. Wool an’ th’ blood o’ a Hightopp.”

Alice gapes at him, at his fingertips which had been quite sore before she’d forced a bit of healing ointment on them the day before. Her hands brush over the fabric with new reverence. “Your blood is in this?”

“Every thread, mogh’linyae Alice.”

Eyes wide, she observes, “But there’s yards of fabric here!”

Giggling, he leans forward and presses his lips to her slack mouth. “It was my pleasure, my Alice, my Lady Hightopp of Iplam.”

And he means it: his blood, his sweat, and his tears; his Alice is worth all that and more.

Shocked silence is her eloquent reply.

He glances down at the dress between them and asks, “Will you meet the clans with me... as Alice Hightopp?”

Still silent, Alice pulls the dress toward her, embracing it. She nods.

Cradling her face in his hands, he ducks beneath the brim of her new hat and brushes a chaste kiss over her lips. “Thank you.”

When he moves to stand and locate his kilt, assortment of socks, shirt, vest, jacket, and sporran, her hand stops him. She presses her palm against his chest, over his Heart Mark, and Speaks through her heart line.

Disbelief, love, awe, concern, shock, nervousness, adoration, devotion, amazement...

Tarrant chokes on the potent jumble of emotions. “I’d so hoped you’d like it,” he manages, smiling, brushing his fingertips along her cheek and jaw. And then he prepares to meet his fellow Outlanders, not as a mad-hatter-to-the-queen-in-need-of-a-wife, but as a Hightopp, as the Laird of Iplam with his Lady by his side.

One Promise Kept: Book 3

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by Manniness

Part 2 of 22

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