Continuing Tales

I Love My Love

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by justadram

Part 19 of 22

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I Love My Love

Later that day...

The Queen stopped Alice and Tarrant as they finally entered the palace.

"Alice, if I could borrow you for a moment, I wanted to speak with you about the trading company you've proposed."

Alice unlaced her arm from Tarrant's. "Of course, Your Majesty."

"Until later, Alice," Tarrant said, bowing as he moved the opposite direction down the hall.

"Step inside," the Queen said, waving her hands in the direction of her library. "We can discuss our plans until dinnertime. I believe Thackery has something quite delectable planned and we would not want to be late."

Alice followed Mirana into the library and moved towards the large table that was spread with books.

"These are some books with maps and charts and other information I selected from my collection, which I thought might be helpful to you," the Queen said, floating around the table and gesturing over the books in a wide arc.

"If you have any books on imports and exports that would be helpful as well."

Mirana looked for a moment as if Alice was speaking Chinese, but she recovered and responded, "I'll see what I can find," as she came to stand behind Alice's shoulder.

Alice drew one of the large map books closer to the edge where she could see it better.


"Yes?" Alice inquired, surprised by the Queen's excited exclamation.

"Your hand!"

"My hand?" Alice asked, looking down at her hands, which were braced on the book. "Oh, my hand," Alice said, realizing that Mirana had most likely taken note of her ring.

"So, he has made you an offer," the Queen said, taking Alice's hand in hers to admire the ring. "After teatime?"

"Last night," Alice said.

"Oh, I could not be happier for the two of you!" the Queen said, pressing her free hand to her chest. "It has been years since we have celebrated an Engagement." The Queen released Alice's hand and began to quickly move about the table, closing the massive tombs as gracefully as possible. "We won't be needing these."

"I don't believe that my getting married will mean that I cannot serve you as we intended," Alice protested. At least, she hoped not. She had not discussed such a thing with Tarrant. "Married or not there will still be buttered fingers to obtain," she added, mentioning the one item she thought Mirana might be most eager to obtain.

"Yes, of course, but we won't need them today," the Queen corrected her.


The Queen smiled, her white teeth flashing between her darkened lips, "These books."

"Are we not going to discuss trade?" Alice asked.

"No, we have a wedding to discuss!" Mirana announced cheerfully.

"We do?" Was the Queen as agog about weddings as her sister and mother were? She rather hoped not: she found the discussion of lace and wedding presents rather dull.

"Well," Mirana said, going to the bookcases and moving her index finger over the titles as she glided down the row of shelves, "I imagine that you know very little about Outlandish customs and might benefit from some information."

This was true enough. She had already misunderstood some of what Tarrant had said to her in regards to their Engagement, and she did not want any misunderstandings to result in his unhappiness.

"For example, a proclamation will need to be made, the Biddin' will have to take place, and you should have your carrots ready. I imagine Thackery would be happy to help you with procuring them."[1]

"Carrots?" Alice asked quietly. Were the marriage customs quite mad, she wondered?

"If I could only find the right book. Ah, here we are: The Customs and Rituals of Outlanders," the Queen said, drawing a brown leather book from the shelf and lowering it to the table. She smoothed her hands over the title. "This will have all the information we need."

"Are you sure you need the book? You seem to already be rather well-versed in Outlandish marriage customs."

Alice had meant it as a compliment of the Queen's knowledge of her subjects, but at her words Mirana's dark eyes grew large and she seemed momentarily flustered.

"I thought at one time that perchance I…but then…well, I," the Queen murmured, opening the book and drawing her finger down the content page to find 'Marriage.' "Here we are, 'Marriage,'" she said, changing the subject as she found the proper page number. Her nimble fingers, used no doubt to browsing through potion books, flipped through the pages dexterously. "Unless of course it is to be a handfasting?" she paused, hovering over the open page.

"Handfasting?" Alice asked. She still had not received an explanation of the other customs the Queen had listed off, but Mirana seemed distracted.

"Did the Hatter propose marriage or did he ask you to enter into a handfasting?"

"He never said anything about handfasting. I've never heard of such a thing."

"It's an Outlandish custom akin to an Engagement, but if he did not mention it, it is must be a marriage," Mirana said with a smile. "Now, where should we start…ah, yes, the proclamation. I can make that for you if you will let me."

Alice tilted her head. "I would not mind."

"Lovely. We do things rather differently here at court in terms of marriage celebrations, but it is customary to follow the groom's traditions in such cases as these, you see."

"Cases such as these?" Alice repeated back.

"A mixed marriage," the Queen explained, lowering her voice. "It will not upset you, I hope, to not be married in accordance with your Above customs?" she asked, her brow briefly knitting.

Alice thought for a moment. She had never been a girl to spend hours dreaming about her wedding, so she was not particularly attached to any particular element. "No, I don't believe it shall affect me in the least."

"I'm sure Hatter could be prevailed upon to bend with tradition if it would make you happy, Alice. His happiness clearly depends on yours."

Alice smiled to herself. She knew that he would do anything to make her happy. However, she felt the same way and would be more than content to celebrate their marriage in the Outlandish style. "That won't be necessary." Alice paused. "Unless, Outlandish customs are very strange." As some things were in Underland, and the notion that she would be in need of carrots seemed to augur a fair amount of strangeness.

"No, no, I think you'll find them quite charming," Mirana assured her.

"Then I shan't have any problem with it. Besides, I don't believe many of my customs would be of much use here, since there are no churches in Underland."

"Churches? Are they central to marriage ceremonies Above?" the Queen asked, as she inspected the page before her.

"Yes, rather."

"Well, no we don't have churches, but perhaps Thackery could bake up something similar, hmm? To make you feel more at home?"

Alice began to snicker before covering her mouth and recovering herself. "Yes, perhaps he can."

A knock sounded at the door and a frog footman entered the room.

"Your Majesty," he said with a bow. "There is a supplicant waiting for you in the Throne Room."

Mirana sighed. "My apologies, Alice. It would seem that our plans must wait. We will discuss this at a later date."

Alice nodded, as the Queen drifted elegantly from the room, hands held aloft. The footman followed after, and Alice was left alone.

It occurred to her that before her lay a book with all the information she could possibly want about the Hatter's background and customs. Including this handfasting of which the Queen spoke as another form of Outlandish Engagement. Alice turned back to the contents page to find if there was a listing for 'Handfasting.' Indeed, there was. She flipped to the correct page and began to read:

The handfast sermonie, liek an engaugement, expressens haven to interesse to maken mariage. The gests maken a circuler abouten the bride and bridegroom, while the paire leien to plegge theim to one another. The seremonie aren solemnizaten by the putting of "hands on fist". Theim hands aren tied with a tartan.

This trial mariage lasten for a yere and a dai. Whanne the time enden, the paire wedden or separaten. During this yere, the fruitfulness of the bride, or the lakken, can be determinen. Any child conceiven aren legitimate. If one of the paire enden the contract, and not wedden, they aren chargen with the child.

Most handfastings aren maken at Lammas Fair time. The custom aren for yonglings to chois a match for the nexte yere. Whanne Lammas Fair time comen ayen, they aren to wedden or separaten.[2]

The language was somewhat difficult to decipher, but Alice thought she understood the majority of the entry. Tarrant had most certainly said Marriage and Engagement—not handfasting—but the contents of this particular custom unarmed her, leaving her uneager to investigate any further Outlandish rituals. This seemingly casual approach towards partnership was so foreign to her that she began to wonder what it was that the Hatter expected from marriage. She closed the book and hurried from the room to seek the comfort of her quiet bedchamber.

Alice heard a knock on her bedchamber door that roused her from her early evening lethargy. Raising herself from the chaise, she sighed. She had no use for visitors at the moment. The prospect of dinner was daunting enough.

She was somewhat surprised to see Tarrant standing before her, grinning broadly with his hands behind his back.

"Will you step out into the hall with me, Alice?"

"Why not step inside?" Alice asked.

"I have something to show you and I should not be alone in your bedchamber," he said, his smile faltering slightly. "Please?" he asked hopefully.

"You wouldn't be alone. I would be with you," Alice said a little crankily.

"Precisely," he said, raising his brows. "Alice, it's a very good surprise," he pleaded.

"You were with me here last night," Alice pointed out, still not stepping outside of her bedchamber.

Tarrant sighed heavily, and she watched his eyes turn somewhat yellow, possibly annoyed with her stubbornness. However, his eyes were also rimmed in blue, she noted, at the Memory no doubt of just why they should not be alone in her bedchamber.

Finally, he pulled the surprise from behind his back: a low brimmed straw boater tied with a powder blue grosgrain ribbon. "Tis a fairing," he offered.[3]

She felt herself soften somewhat. He had done nothing wrong, after all. She had merely stumbled across some information that had left her Uncertain. Better to speak with him about it than be cross with him.

"It is a very good surprise," Alice said, taking the hat from him with a soft smile. "May I kiss you on the cheek?" she asked.

"Ah, well, as to that…" he stuttered, removing his own hat and turning it before him.

Alice leaned forward to give her thanks realizing that he was unlikely to grant her the permission she sought and that it was best to merely bestow her kiss. Her stomach fluttered at the brief contact. Whatever the contents of that book, he still was Her Hatter and she very much liked to kiss him, she thought, a blush beginning to spread across her chest.

"Tarrant, please come in."

He seemed undone by her kiss and despite his recent protests, entered her bedchamber. "I made several hats for you after we parted, but this was the only one that seemed appropriately pleasing. The right shade of Alice Blue," he said, gesturing towards the hat that Alice held in her hand.

"It's a lovely blue," Alice admitted, walking towards her dressing table and setting the hat down.

He sat down on the chaise. "It is your blue," Tarrant said, as if this encompassed everything she needed to know about this particular shade of blue.

"I did not know that I had my own shade of blue," Alice said, joining him on the chaise.

"Oh, yes. A lovely blue, the best blue, Alice Blue. Your wedding dress perhaps might be Alice Blue," he suggested. "Married in Blue, your love will always be true."

At Tarrant's words, Alice began to dwell once more on the ritual about which she had read.

"Alice?" Tarrant whispered, lisping.

Her eyes rose to meet his.

"It need not be blue. Married in White, you have chosen right. Married in Pearl, you will live in a whirl. Married in Brown, you will live in town."[4] He attempted to coax a smile out of her. "It can be whatever color would please you, love," he assured her, his brows drawing together in concern. "And if you would rather have someone else make your dress in whatever color you would like, I would not mind, although I had assumed, which may have been presumptuous of me, because of course lasses prefer to choose who will…"

"Tarrant," she said, stopping him with a touch. "The Queen asked me whether we were engaged or whether we were entering into a handfasting."

"Why would she ask such a thing?" he asked, speaking so quickly he nearly tripped over his own words.

"She saw the ring on my hand and began to ask questions."

"It's an Engagement ring, Alice. A fede ring as a symbol of our tryst. A proper Engagement, although I cannot properly perform the Speerin', which is troubling, I admit, but it is a Real and proper Engagement. Unless of course you would rather it not be, in which case if you would rather prefer a handfasting in order to determine whether I am someone you would care to be…"

Alice would have interrupted him earlier, as she could tell that he was rapidly descending into another fit of madness due to his Uncertainty, but her own had left her so out of sorts that she was slow to stop him. At last, she reached out her hand to him once more, stroking his upper arm through his jacket.

"It is an Engagement then?" she inquired softly.

He blinked his now large yellow eyes at her. "Aye, Alice. A'm wantin' tae be wi' ye ayeweys. Ah knaw that. A hiv for years."

She nodded, closing her eyes with some level of relief washing over her. Tarrant loved her. He meant nothing less than forever.

"That's what I want as well," Alice agreed. She drew a cleansing breath. Her curiosity was not yet sated, however. "Was it common?"

Tarrant had placed his hand over hers and his eyes were slowly fading back to green. "Was what common, lass?"

"Handfasting. I heard it was common," Alice hedged, not wanting to admit that she had perused a book on Outlandish customs, as she had begun to feel that she should have asked him about his traditions instead of reading up on them.

His fingers tightened over hers. "Aye. 'twas common." He looked uneasy as he lowered his eyes.

"How common, Tarrant?" she asked, her pulse beginning to race at the odd angle he was holding his head and the tightening of his fingers against hers, digging her fingers into his arm.

"It was before."

Alice attempted to withdraw her hand from his clutches, but he wrapped his hand around hers, securing it against himself. Her mother had always warned her that her curiosity would get the better of her someday.

"Before what?" she asked, her voice coming out low and breathy.

"Before I left for court."

Alice had not thought that he was as inexperienced as she was: quite the contrary. Without knowing his age, she was aware that there were many years between them, as well as cultural differences that had most certainly given him access to more experience than would ever be granted an English girl. But, she had not imagined that Someone had come before her. Without inquiring if this was this case, she had believed herself to be The First Fiancé. Of course, he was her First Kiss, First Love, First Fiancé, and First Everything. Apparently, she was not his First Anything.

Jealousy: Alice had never felt this petty emotion so strongly. To her mortification, she felt tears sting her eyes. Alice Kingsleigh does not cryAlice Kingsleigh, pull yourself together, she ordered herself. Better to shout and rage than melt like a little girl. Where is your muchness now?

Her curious mind filled to the brim with questions she was uncertain she wanted answered. Damnable curiousity! "What was her name?"

"Brianag," he answered so quietly that Alice feared she had imagined his answer.

"Did you leave her?" If he left Brianag, would he one day…Alice did not want to complete that possibility.

"We left each ither," he said, pulling her hand towards his chest and pressing it over his heart. "A wantit tae gae tae court an' she wantit tae marry elsewhere. Her eye had bin catcht by anither lad."

"I'm sorry," Alice found herself saying, although she was not sure why she should be. After all, if this had not come to pass, there would be no Them here, now.

"'Twas whit ye did, Alice. Ye chose a lass that ye thought ye might fancy. It did nae wirk out wi us, as it betimes happent. Bit, twas na great tragedy."[5]

There was no point in trying to extract her hand from his, although she would have liked to sulk further away from him. Hide in the corner or at least turn so that she could hide her face from him. Running away entirely sounded quite appealing to her at the moment. Something had occurred to her from the description of the ritual that sunk her even further into her pit of self-pity.

She swallowed around a large lump that had developed in her throat. "Was there a child?"

He turned his gaze on her sharply. "Na, luve. Na."

Alice was seized by the urge to almost repeat the words, 'I'm sorry,' again, as was that not the point of getting married? Was it not a great misfortune to fail to produce heirs? This is what she had been taught, at least. But, she selfishly felt contented that there had been no child. In at least this one thing they were equal, in at least one thing there was something left for them to share.

"You lived with her for a year," Alice said softly. They had lived together, shared a bed as husband and wife, and yet, there had been no child.

"I was always careful," Tarrant mumbled.

"Careful?" Alice parroted back, not grasping his meaning.

He narrowed his eyes. "How much do you know about the marriage bed?"

Faced with his Experience and her Inexperience, Alice was seized by a childish desire to lie and profess complete knowledge of all things related to men and women, but the truth was so far from that. If they were to marry, he would surely discover this. It was Bad Practice to tell a lie, she scolded herself, especially to a loved one.

"Nothing," she confessed.

Tarrant dropped her hand and stood, striding across the room and keeping his back to her. "Then do not ask me what I mean, Alice."

Condemned to ignorance, Alice inwardly frowned. He could not bring himself to speak on it and there was no one else to do so. She once again cursed herself for not having ever thought to ask her mother or sister about such things. Although, she was uncertain they would have been any more forthcoming than he was.

"Alice, I cannot apologize for what happened in the past," he croaked.

His past is what made him Hatter, Her Hatter. A past that was as dark as it was varied. Sometimes she forgot just how dark. Sometimes she was taken in by the riddles and the rhymes and the pretty hats and bright smiles.

"Was she killed?" Alice asked.

"Aye," he acknowledged.

This woman with whom Her Hatter shared a portion of his life was dead just like all the others he had ever loved. She was jealous of a dead woman. Alice's chest tightened. Her tears began to spill noisily even though she balled her fists in her skirts in an attempt to stem them.

Tarrant turned and hurried towards her, kneeling at her feet and seizing her hands. "Alice, luve, please," he begged.

"It may not have ended in marriage, but you must have cared for her, and she is gone…if there had been a child it would also be…"

He buried his head in her lap. "Dinna think on it," he spoke into her skirts. "Generous, gentle, kind Alice," he murmured.

Alice looked down on his head with his hat knocked free and fallen to the ground. He had lost so much, it was no wonder he kept these Thoughts at bay by sinking into the madness, a horrible safe harbor amidst a sea of pain. Alice slipped her hands from his to wipe inelegantly at her nose and cheeks, trying to compose herself and remove evidence of her tears.

"I have seen many foreign relations between men and women," she began. "Men with four, dozens, and even hundreds of wives at one time."

Tarrant's head rose from her lap, his eyes grown large and round in disbelief.

"This should not shock me, I know. It only…worried me about what it might mean for us."

"Us," Tarrant repeated. "There will still be an Us?" he asked nervously lisping. "You won't leave? You aren't angry?"

"I am not angry. I will not leave. There is an Us," Alice assured him. Her uncertainty would always be outpaced by his, she grasped.

"But, were you going to tell me?" she asked. Surely this was information she deserved to know.

Tarrant swallowed, "I had not thought about it or her in many moons."

"Not even when you proposed to me?" Was she not connected in some remote manner in his mind with the lass that had come before?

"No, because it is not the same. You are not the same. You are Alice. We are different," he spoke earnestly, as his hands strayed from her skirts to her waist, where he gripped her familiarly.

"Forever, Tarrant. Marriage means forever?" she asked once more to be sure, gazing down on him. "Above, marriage is meant to be forever. That is what I understood you to be asking me."

"Aye, it is the same for me, Alice."

Alice did her best to keep her wits, when she felt Hatter drawing lazy half moons with his thumbs against her side. She cleared her throat, "Are Engagements lengthy in Underland?"

Tarrant tilted his head, considering silently. He was obviously attempting to read what answer she might be seeking from him. "They need not be," he finally responded.

"Good. I'd rather ours wasn't."

She watched with pleasure as his face returned to the happiness that had been reflected there when she had first opened the door to him. He tugged lightly at her waist, drawing her to the edge of the chaise and pressing his forehead into her middle.

"Nothing could make me happier, lass," he spoke against her, his warm breath seeping through her dress's bodice.

"And I shan't be made to stay at home?" Alice asked, managing to speak a little sternly despite the pleasant sensations he was creating, as she recalled the other worry Mirana had unknowingly kindled in her breast.

He peeked up at her, his brows drawn together. "Stay at home?" he repeated.

"Where I come from, it would be improper for the wife of a gentleman to have a trade," she explained. "I don't want there to be any misunderstandings: my intention is to go forward with my plans for establishing a trading company for the Queen," she said with a little nod.

"Proper? I know nothing about that, but I hadn't thought to keep you locked in the house," he said, squeezing her about the waist.

She could not tell if he was teasing her or not. "Not locked up, Tarrant, dear..."

"No, for how could you practice your trade if you were? Hmm? I ask you!"

"Well, I couldn't possibly," Alice agreed.

"That wouldn't do at all, for all Hightopp weemen-fowk practice a trade," he said, pressing a kiss to her middle.

Alice shivered slightly at the muted sensation of his lips against the fabric of her dress. If only there was no fabric betwixt…

"All Hightopp women?" she asked, not recognizing the sound of her own voice.

"Aye, and ye will be one, ma dear."

[1] After a Scottish lass accepted a proposal, a formal proclamation was made. Then the best man or maid of honor issued the Biddin' or an invitation to the community to attend the wedding. Finally, as a gift to her betrothed, the girl would give a bundle of carrots tied with red ribbon to her fiancé, as a symbol of fruitfulness on Carrot Sunday (September 29th).

[2] This translation (with all its likely mistakes) of the handfasting tradition into Middle English has been made by the fic author. It roughly says:

The handfasting ceremony, like an engagement, expresses the intent to be married. The guests make a circle around the bride and groom, while the pair pledge themselves to each other. The ceremony is solemnized by the putting of 'hands on fist.' Their hands are tied with a tartan.

This trial marriage lasted for a year and a day. When the time ended, the pair wed or separated. During this year, the fruitfulness of the bride or the lack could be tested. Any child conceived was legitimate. If one of the pair ended the contract and did not wed, they were charged with the child.

Most handfastings were made at Lammas Fair time. The custom was for young people to choose a match for the next year. When Lammas Fair came again, they either wed or separated.

[3] Fairings or love tokens were small gifts given by the groom to the bride. In this wedding tradition, to show his affection, he gave her tokens—sweets, hair ribbons, jewelry trinkets.

[4] These adages come from a poem that dates at least from the 19th c. At the time, brides did not typically marry in white. White did not become popular until Queen Victoria's chose it for her wedding. Royalty typically were married in gold brocade, but she liked herself in white. Brides continued to marry in a variety of colors for a while, but by the end of the century white had become the norm. White, therefore, had nothing to do with purity and everything to do with fashion trends. The saying goes:

"Married in white, you will have chosen all right. Married in grey, you will go far away. Married in black, you will wish yourself back. Married in red, you'll wish yourself dead. Married in blue, you will always be true. Married in pearl, you'll live in a whirl. Married in green, ashamed to be seen. Married in yellow, ashamed of the fellow. Married in brown, you'll live out of town. Married in pink, your spirits will sink."

[5] betimes – sometimes

I Love My Love

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by justadram

Part 19 of 22

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