Continuing Tales

Bonkers To Be Late

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by RosieLilyIce93

Part 17 of 48

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Hatter burst out of the White Queen's study and ran directly into Alice. He reached out quickly to catch and steady her. They could only stare at each other. So much was left unsaid but all Tarrant could think about was how warm Alice's body was beneath his fingers.

Eventually though, Alice cleared her throat and stepped back from him.

"Lead the way." She said softly, gesturing him in front of her. Tarrant nodded and started the track to his workshop. They walked quietly, both caught up in their thoughts. A few minutes later he bowed her into the room.

Alice got through the door before stopping dead. Her mouth fell open at the sight. Hats, some finished, some not, were piled everywhere. There were fabric flowers, birds, scraps of lace and silk haphazardly strewn about.

In other words, it was a riot of color.

Alice was strangely pleased at the sight and Tarrant noticed. Stepping quickly to her side, he smiled hesitantly at her.

"Do you like it?"

Alice nodded dumbly and stared a few minutes more before turning to look at him. For the first time since yesterday, she was looking at him with affection and happiness.

"It's brilliant Hatter! It's such a nice change after all the white I've been surrounded by all day. Even my room is dominated by the color!" Tarrant laughed at her annoyance.

"If the white ever becomes too much please know that you are always welcome here Alice." He reached out and grasped her hand. For a moment things were back to the way they once were and she smiled comfortably at him. But then the shadow passed over her face and she drew away again. After clearing her throat, the stiffness returned to her voice.

"At least in moments such as this." She murmured. Before he could respond, she walked over to the work table and sat down on the high stool beside his own chair. Tarrant followed and sat with her. He watched her take a deep breath. Every movement she made was fascinating and he couldn't help but be distracted.

"So what is this all about?" Alice had crossed her arms but her eyes were darting nervously around the room, refusing to look anywhere except at Tarrant.

Tarrant shook himself and focused on the task at hand.

"What we have to accomplish is your wardrobe for both rituals and the ball I'm sure the Queen will insist on hosting in your honor afterwards. Yes, I know. It'll all be rather tedious." He said in response to the grimace Alice made.

"Anyway, my job is to create both of your head pieces. The first you don't get much say in but the second can be made to your liking." He paused to judge her reaction. She simply nodded for him to continue.

"The first piece is a veil, made of purest white lace. The dress Celeste will make for you will have the same lace. This is the most important part of the ceremony. The Queen will douse you with water from the Umberlin River, the most pure water in Underland. As soon as the water touches the lace, it will change color. If Underland and the Fates accept your citizenship, the white will turn to gold and then to the color the Fates to decree to be yours alone." Tarrant was obviously enthusiastic about the process, but Alice still worried.

"What happens if I'm rejected?" She asked quietly. Tarrant paled a bit at the question but knew that honesty was the best policy.

"The lace will turn grey and then the Queen and Absolem will have to figure out what to do next." He replied. Alice nodded.

"What else must we do?" Grateful that she didn't stop to contemplate that most dire situation, he rushed on.

"Once we know your color, we can begin work on your helmet!" He smiled brightly, already envisioning the creation.

"Hatter, you aren't a metal worker, how do you expect to make me a helmet?" Alice asked cautiously.

Tarrant quieted and became slightly sad. The fading of his bright green eyes to grey worried Alice and she instantly regretted her words. She attempted to apologize but he stopped her.

"Don't lass," his burr crept in. "I learned metal work from me mam. She was the best metal worker in the Outlands. I was able to combine her and my fa's work when I became Hatter to the White Queen. I'll use her teachings to make your helmet and Fa's to make the veil." His voice gained strength. Hoping to banish the previous dark thoughts, Alice turned them toward the work.

"Shall we start on this veil then?"

Tarrant nodded and stood. He ruffled through the items on his table and withdrew a measuring tape, pencil, and sheet of paper from the mess. He turned to her with the tape in hand and cleared his throat.

"Sit still please." Alice nodded and seemingly became a stone. Tarrant approached her slowly and set to work. As he measured the circumference of her head, the space from her brows to her hairline, and the size of her ears, he couldn't help but marvel at her stillness. That along with the heat that seemed to come off her in waves. He cleared his throat again in an attempt to turn his thoughts away from it.

"When did ye learn to become statue lass?" He couldn't help but ask. Alice's lips twitched into a smile.

"When I was traveling, we stopped in a place called Africa. I was invited on a safari –"

"Safari?" He asked, completely bewildered.

"An expedition to view wild animals. Anyway, there was a group of zebras, small striped horses, and they were very skittish. To get a better view of them we had to sit or stand completely still, as to not startle them. They were beautiful." Alice's eyes were happy and her smile wistful.

Tarrant smiled too and moved to stand behind her.

"I need to move your hair, stay still." He warned her.

Tarrant wasn't prepared for the jolt of hot and cold that flooded his body when his fingers brushed the nape of her neck. Alice hadn't been prepared either by the sharp intake of breath he heard from her. Yet she remained still.

Moving quickly, Tarrant measured the length of her neck and moved her hair back into place. He almost tripped in his haste to place his instruments back on the table. He hoped that Alice didn't notice the tremor in his hands. Turning to face her, he found her head cocked to the side, studying him. She finally rose and stretched. Tarrant tried not to start at the graceful curve of her back.

"Alice?" he weakly tried to get her attention.

"Hmmm?" Alice rolled her shoulders and turned those bright, dark blue eyes on him. He fidgeted nervously before finally voicing his request.

"Would you possibly, perhaps be interested in dining, eating, ingesting, partaking –" Tarrant felt the madness trying to take control as did Alice.

"Hatter!" Her voice was sharp but squashed the oncoming assault of his mind.

"Thank you. I'm fine." He lisped. He drew another deep breath and placed his hands behind his back, crossing his fingers for luck.

"Would you care to have supper with me this evening?" He asked softly. Alice's eyes brightened momentarily but then they dimmed. She shook her head at him.

"I'm sorry Tarrant, I don't. I'll be taking supper by myself in my rooms tonight." Her voice was too tight, trying to hold back her regret. Tarrant, sad but still extremely observant picked up on it.

"Alice lass, are ye lying to me?"

Alice stared at him blankly before her shoulders slumped.

"Yes." She said honestly.

"Why?" Such a simple question, yet the hardest Alice had had to answer today. Well, since she was on the road of honesty, she had better stay on it.

"Because you're my friend Hatter. There's a darkness inside my mind right now that I don't want to taint you with. It's best that there's a veil between friends right now for me."

Tarrant gazed at her steadily, his emotions fleeting as his eyes went from grey to yellow to finally land on murky green-brown.

"Ye think I don't already know darkness lass?" He rumbled quietly. Alice shook her head at him.

"Not this type Hatter. Please try to understand."

"Alright, on one condition. Ye said we were friends and I wish it to remain so," And grow he thought quietly to himself "so instead of dining with me, will ye please visit me besides working on yer hats? If you really are my friend at least." He bargained quickly.

Alice seemed to think it over and chewed on her lip. Once again, Tarrant was fascinated by the action.

"Yes. I'll visit." She finally answered. Tarrant beamed at her and his eyes changed back to their emerald green. The sight made Alice's heart swell and she couldn't help her next words.

"And Tarrant? You are my best friend. Time, distance, other people, none of it will ever change that." His eyes shown even more brightly. He moved too quickly for her to protest and drew her into a tight hug. Alice stiffened at first, but then relaxed into his embrace. They stood quietly for a moment, before breaking apart.

"I should be going." She whispered.

"Aye, of course." Tarrant couldn't keep the husky burr out his voice.

"I'll see you tomorrow when I'm finished with the Queen. Goodnight Hatter." Alice's own voice sounded foreign to her ears. Too breathless and shaky.

"Aye. Goodnight my Alice." Tarrant's eyes were warm on her face. Alice stared at him for a heartbeat and then quietly exited the room. Once on the opposite side of the closed door, she leaned it.

Champions of kingdoms did not get weak-kneed and googley eyed at hugs between the best friends! At least that's what she tried to tell herself convention demanded of her.

Then again, when had she truly ever followed convention?

Alice placed a hand to her still rapidly beating heart and willed it to slow down.

Little did she know the body on the other side of the door was doing the same …

Bonkers To Be Late

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by RosieLilyIce93

Part 17 of 48

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