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Alice return to Wonderland

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,,You did it Alice! An impossible thing"! Mallymkun smiled after wiping her tears.

,,Nothing is as impossible as saying goodbye to you my friends"! Alice answered, turning to look at them. Deep sadness in her voice. It was so different this time. Saying Goodbye never felt so hard. Her heart tightened and a lump formed in her throat. It took her all her strengh to fight back the tears, that were already burning in her eyes. Finally, she got her attention back to the hatter, who was still holing her hand.

,,Goodbye Hatter" she then aspirated and went through the mirror. ,,Goodbye...Alice" he murmured after her with as much saddnes in his tone as Alice herself. It had been a volatile echo but it still reached her. Already far from them, tears finally made their way down her cheeks.

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Three years had now passed since Alice fell through the looking glass and arrived in underland, or better said, her so called Wonderland, once more. To save it and its people another time and also leave it with a heavy heart again.
The true pain of missing, mostly came a few days after her return into her own world. Alice reckoned that the pain of missing got worse each time she left. And every single time it took years for her to come back.
Even now it was three whole years again. Three whole years and Alice Kingsleigh had now grown into a fine young woman. The first time Alice had been a Child of seven years of age. The second time, she was about to turn twenty that year, she was set to marry a very unpleasant Lord named Hamish. Luckily she didn't in the end. However, she found her way to Underland only to discover she had to save it. She had been scared to the bones and irritated a lot. Thirteen years made it hard for her to remember it all as being true. Eventually Alice remebered it all as real and managed to slay the chabberwocky. Three years later in age of twenty three, she returned to save her dearest friend, Tarrant Hightopp, also known as the hatter. Fought against the time, which happened to be a person, went into big trouble and still managed to save Underland a second time. Alice thought of that time with bittersweet sadness. Oh how she missed them all. This time though, she didn't expect to ever return.

It was noon in London. The midst of spring. The weather got warmer and the trees already sprouted their young leaves. Other ones blossomed in soft colors that matched the light greens of the leaves. Singing birds were back, tweeting their tunes, greeting the lovely season. The sun climbed higher and higher each day, lightening up to sky into a pleasant shade of pastel blue. The city also came back to its more lively self. More people were now on the go. It was a day as these. Alice had joined her mother into the city to help her to run some errands. While Helen tried to talk to her daughter, Alice thoughts were far away from her mothers speech. It wasn't something new that Alice had her mind stuck in the clouds most of the time but it had gotten noticeable worse since the past year. To the topic if Alice had considered to ever marry, she managed to avoid pretty well. In the end, Helen gave it up to ask her holes in her daughter about it. Even though she never really understood why.
It wasn't like there weren't no suiting men. There had been plenty young handsome men around, that had been interested in Alice. The young blonde however had always rebuffed them. Alice didn't even knew a prudent answer herself. Why was it that she wasn't interested in any men around? For some reason she just couldn't picture herself beside any of those that came to her. Instead, Alice preferred to lock herself in her room for hours, writing down her experiences in Underland, taking long walks in the huge garden or in the forest, or just sitting somewhere, letting her mind wander.
In the eyes of the world, Alice was a especially untypical woman. Till a few years ago her mother Helen had thought the same. However, she stopped, after Alice returned from her journey. She realized that her daughter, even though it was strange sometimes, was exactly right the way she was. Even though it meant that Alice was a huge exception in the society.

Both were walking quite a while until they settled themselves onto a small but neat café. Alice had her eyes fixed on a point far away. Her chin resting on the palm of her hand, she gazed out to the ocean behind the port. The water was reflecting the sun and was glittering and shining as if someone poured liquid gold on top. Alice in fact, was so deep in her thoughts, she didn't even hear her mother call her name. The words seem to fly past her ears, vanishing in the air like a certain cat she knew.

Helen Kingsleigh aspirated the air through her nose quietly as she rose her brows into a suspicious frown. ,,Alice” she called again. It was impossible for her to guess her daughters thoughts. ,,Alice”! She called once more, this time louder and finally the blonde snapped out of her daydreaming trance. ,,Hmm”? Was all she hummed as a surprised answer as she turned her head slowly to her mother, who sighed deeply.
,,Really Alice” Helen began, stirring the sugar cubes in her tea. ,,Sorry mother” Alice mumbled subdued. ,,What's up with all that daydreaming” Helen shook her head ,,I know you were always a little up in the clouds with your head but it's gotten worse. Should I worry”? Alice didn't answer to her mothers argument, instead she just looked at her mother apologizing. ,,Child” Her mother started again ,,I can clearly see there's something bothering you”. ,,It's nothing” Alice assured. ,,It doesn't look like nothing” her mother retaliated. ,,How would know”? Alice furrowed her browns ,,I'm just thinking a lot, that's all”. Helen sighed again ,,I got that, but what in the world are you thinking of”? Alice ignored the question and turned her head away again to gaze into the distance. Helen gave it a exhausted grumble. It was no use with her daughter. Stubborn as a mule if she wanted to be.

Alice thought back to the one topic that caused her to be so absent. It was of course her friends of Underland. ,,Dreams” she aspirated. Dreams or better said, the dream. A dream that came back over and over again. It wasn't a nightmare by all means, it was more if a bittersweet dream, that caused her to wake up in tears every single time. It tore her heart to see her friends in her dreams and waking up to nothing. Dreams of the white queen Mirana, Bayard, Mc Twisp, Cess the grinning Cat, Thackery the march hare, Mallymkum, the tweedles, and most of all Tarrant the hatter. It always ended with her seeing his face.

It was a painful memory of her saying goodbye. On the one hand, she never wanted to leave but at the other hand, she had to. She couldn't leave her mother and sister behind just like that. Her sister that she hadn't heard of in a long time by the way. Alice always had a reason to return home. Home. Now she wasn't even sure what or where her true home was. Was home really just a house? A place? A country? Or was it more persons that she loved?

Alice knew to well that the hatter wanted her to stay and yes Alice wished she could have stayed but she had to leave. Hatter had his family back and even he understood how important family was. Alice had been very happy for him. However, it didn't change the fact how sad and heart tearing it was to leave them all, leave him, again. It hurt Alice more than she would ever admit to herself.
She feared they would never see each other again and it broke her heart. Hatter had told her they would meet in dreams and memories which was indeed true but still no reality. For a moment, Alice wanted to trust Tarrants words, but she knew and probably as well as he did, that it most likely were just to make the parting easier.

It was true that she kept on seeing him in her dreams, but these were just memories that ended up making her more sad than happy. It ended up making her miss them more than enduring the separation.
And there she was now, back in her world, never able to return or was that wrong? Maybe she could return? Maybe she could go on her own for a visit? But how would that happen? Alice never came to Underland on her own will, she always stumbled into it to save it. So she had to drop that thought. How would she even know where to start searching? And who would guarantee it would work if she tried on her own?
The much bigger problem was, if she would happen to get back there, she would also have to return back to her mother again. And Alice hated that fact.

Alice had build up her life as far as she always wanted it. She was a famous and skilled captain, good at making deals and nevertheless she missed her Wonderland more than anything. Every striped cat reminded her of chess, every dog of Bayard and if there was a store of hats, or dear. Tea and cake seemed dull and boring and whenever she saw a butterfly, she hoped it would be Absolem. It was to get mad. But hold on, wasn't she a bit mad herself?

 

,,Alice“! After a few long moments, that seemed to have been an eternity, her mother called her again. ,,Alice I am really worried about your well being” she said. Alice turned her attention back to her mother ,,I am fine I told you. It's just...a dream I am thinking about”. ,,These dreams again”? Her mother asked. Alice nodded. ,,My dear child” her mother put her hand on her daughters cheek ,,These are just dreams. They are not real”. ,,Thanks for reminding” Alice whispered, disappointment in her voice.
After another while, Alice and her mother got up from the café and went back to their house. In her room, Alice changed into one of her favorite night gowns. It reached down to her ankles and had a soft faded blue color to it. A darker ribbon was tied around her waist. Alice stood before her mirror. In slow steps, she took out the hair pins and undid her braid with her fingers, that was laying over her shoulder. Come to think of it, she didn't really change much. She just got older and more mature. Just as it was normal for a twenty six year old woman.
Sighing, Alice turned away from her mirror and strode past her bed on which an orange tabby lay. Curled up into a circle. Alice swiped her fingertips over the furry head swiftly and continued to head to her huge windowsill. It had a pillow across, so you could sit on it. The cat on the bed rose its head, got on its paws and stretched itself yawning. After Alice had sat herself on the Windowsill, the cat scuttled over to her owner in light and quick steps and jumped up next to her feet with a small and welcoming meow. A small smile spread across Alice lips, as she reached out to pat the cats head again. ,,Well hello Dinah” Alice greeted her. Dinah gave it a pleased purr, as she rubbed herself against Alice legs and pressed her had into her palm.

Dinah was the cat Alice got from her father when she was a Child. Dinah had been a kitten back then and obviously grew as Alice grew. Now being a fourteen year old cat, Dinah didn't look as young as she had been a few years ago. But anyhow, she was still a very active and loving cat.
Starring out of her window into the garden, Alice let her mind wander again. The sun was about to set and the clouds already turned into a soft pink and orange. Her thoughts went back to Underland like they always did. Longing Alice closed her eyes. As soon as she did, familiar faces appeared and her heart tightened. She saw herself being in the clock tower again, in front of her Tarrant. His expression was sad and disappointed because he understood to well that Alice had to leave once more. It made it even worse for her. She felt so incredible sorry. Alice wished their worlds weren't separated. She missed them all so incredible much, missed him so incredible much. But why was it that it hurt the most when she thought of the hatter? Why was it that it was him she thought of the most?
He was her dearest friend, Alice assured that to herself. Alice kept hearing him say his, fairfarren, and tears started to burn in her eyes. A barely audible whimper escaped her lips, as she ducked her head down into her crossed arms and pulled her knees tighter to her chest. Softy she started to cry. Emotions washing over her. She didn't know what to feel anymore. This pain in her heart didn't let her go. She didn't know why that was, she couldn't lay a finger on it, she only knew it hurt. It was way more than just missing.

Suddenly a quite voice reached her ears. Almost like a whisper. ,,Alice" it called. It was a rather deep voice. Maybe Alice was starting to hear voices now. ,,Alice" again and she lifted her head. There, there was indeed a voice. Did she loose her mind for real now? ,,Alice"! Now the voice became louder. ,,Hello"? The blonde sniffed, tears still running down her cheeks. ,,Here I am" the voice said. Alice looked around but didn't find anyone. ,,Not at the ceiling silly" the voice chuckled slightly. Alice knew this voice as good as all the other ones. ,,Absolem"? She aspirated. ,,Where are you"? ,,Here" the voice called and Alice finally turned her head to the window handle. And indeed, there was a blue butterfly on it. ,,I am hallucinating" Alice whispered in unbelief. ,,Absolutely not" The butterfly countered making Alice realize he was truly there. ,,It's really you then. Absolem"! The blonde repeated, pure happiness in her voice as her lips curled up into a smile. ,,Why are you crying"? Absolem then asked her plain and simple. ,,Well I..." Alice blinked and wiped her wrists over her cheeks and eyes to wipe away her tears. ,,I was crying because I missed you all". ,,I see" Absolum fluttered from his spot right in front of Alice face ,,Then I guess I's time for you to return Alice". ,,Return"? The blonde asked in a questioning but sad manner. ,,Why, Yes"! Absolum confirmed. Alice thought for a moment but lifted her gaze back up to the butterfly still tears in her eyes ,,I would love to....I wish I could....but I can't".,,Can't"? Absolums voice seemed surprised ,,Who said you can't".,,I do" Alice sniffed. ,,You are missed Alice" the butterfly stated. ,,And that's why I can't return. If I do, everybody would want me to stay again....and I...". ,,And you would like to stay too I suppose" Absolum looked at her suspiciously. ,,I don't know" Alice whimpered. ,,I can't stay in Wonderland, I can't leave my mother, and my sister". ,,I understand" Absolem flew back to the window handle ,,But how about a visit then? They would understand". Alice thought again. ,,But...Time told me to never come back". Absolem turned his head once more ,,He meant to never come back to his tower silly, he surely didn't mean for you to stay away from underland". Alice lowered her gaze. ,,Anyhow" Absolem flew up in the air ,,Make your choice Alice. Until tomorrow noon. I will be waiting for you".And with that he left the young woman behind. Utterly shaken up and torn in her thoughts. Alice watched Absolem fly away through her window, out into the dusk.

Chapter Text

The soft rays of the sun made their way through the window and lightened up the whole room. Alice took a deep breath as she woke. Blinking, the blonde lifted her head from where she had been resting it on her arms and knees. It took her a moment to realize, where she had fallen asleep. She was still on the windowsill instead of in her bed. Sighing silently, Alice straightened herself a little. Her neck hurt a bit from the weird position she had been sleeping in. After yawning and wiping her eyes, she looked around. Dinah was still sleeping at her feet. ,,Strange” she mumbled ,,How did I even sleep through the night like that”? Now Alice remembered. Absolem had been there, he had talked to her.

Was it real or was it just a dream again? Alice looked outside, hoping. The widow was still a bit open. ,,Maybe it was just a dream” she murmured what she was thinking. ,,Make your choice Alice! Tomorrow noon. I'll be waiting for you” Absolems voice rang in her ears and Alice stood up, waking Dinah in the process. Memories of the last evening were flashing her mind, making her realize it was indeed true and real. ,,No, it was true”! the blonde buffed out. She really had the chance of returning for a visit, and this time it was her own choice on how long she would stay. A wide grin formed on her lips. A few weeks, a few months or maybe a whole year? Alice thoughts were going wild. For a moment she completely forgot her fears of having to say goodbye again. She would be very stupid if she didn't take the offer. Oh how much she looked forward on meeting all her friends again, meeting ,him, again.

Happily Alice walked over to the door and gave a quick glance to her clock. It was half an hour before eleven. ,,Oh dear” Alice stated a bit surprised but casually over the fact on how long she had been sleeping, but continued to head to the bathroom.

A few moments later and after a good shower, Alice went back into her room and opened her closet. Alice had a bunch of fine dresses. Many were in the shade of blue, since it was her favorite color. It had never changed. In the end she picked a long airy dress, that reached down to her ankles. It had a beautiful faded blue like she preferred it. With a few quick grips, she had pinned her hair up into a loose bun. A few curly strands of hair were still hanging down at each side of her forehead and made it look playful and soft. Alice never liked the harsh and strict clothing rules anyway.

After deciding that her looks were good enough, the young blonde planned to talk to her mother about her journey. After that was done she would get going to look for Absolem.
With a last glance into her mirror, Alice went out of her room into the living room, where her mother was already sitting on the couch.

,,Alice” Helen looked up, a surprised expression on her face ,,You're awake at least”. Her daughter smiled at her ,,Good morning mother”. ,,Good morning hah, thats a good one” she laughed ironically ,,it's almost noon. Oh...”! Helen tilted her head, as she realized her daughters mood. ,,What's that? You're smiling”? ,,Yes” Alice sat down next to her ,,Mother, I am going to take a journey again” she blurted spontaneously. ,,What”!? Helen looked at her daughter completely taken off guard ,,You are going again? When”? ,,Today, actually pretty soon” Alice smiled even wider. ,,Today”? Her mother gasped ,,and soon”? Alice nodded ,,Yes, I know it's pretty sudden, but a good friend of mine called me over for a visit and he is going to pick me up at noon”. ,,Friend? Visit? Alice”! her mother stood up in a rush. Confusion in her face ,,I don't understand quite what you mean. What friend? Do I even know him”? Alice shook her head, chuckling and biting her lower lip ,,No, It's not that important. Anyway, I really needed some time off anyway, and a little vacation is just perfect for me” Alice tried to explain.
Helen tilted her lips. She didn't plan on getting in the way but she was still concearned for her daughter. Since she knew how Alice was handling things. ,,Well, good my dear, I know, you know what you're doing. I trust you. But let me accompany you at least”. Alice swallowed. She needed to convince her to stay here. ,,Uhm actually....” Alice stated “that is really sweet of you, but you see..” she fumbled her fingers nervously “I am twenty six now, I am old enough. I just...”. ,,I see” her mother broke her off and rose an eyebrow suspiciously. Alice pressed her lips together. She knew quite to well what her mother was thinking now, but as long as it kept her away form following her, it didn't matter. ,,Well” Helen rose her chin ,,I hope I'll get to know that 'Friend' someday”! Alice had to hide a much bigger snicker from the way how her mother had emphasized the word, friend. ,,Is he handsome”? ,,Mother”! Alice bursted out. The laugh swept along in her voice. ,,How old is he”? Her mother added. Alice ignored her mothers questions amused. ,,Well, I think I will get going now mother” Alice straightened her dress as her mother came up to her to hug her. ,,Alright my dear, take care”! they hugged tightly. ,,See you mom” Alice smiled at her once more and then walked to the door. ,,Oh don't you want to have some breakfast first”? Helen called after her as if she forgot it but Alice shook her head again, laughing. ,,I am fine! thank you”. ,,Well ok then. Oh and how long will you be gone”? Helen added. Alice tilted her head smirking ,,Mom, I'm ok. I will write you”. Finally her mother seemed pleased and Alice was able to close the door and get out. Now she had to hurry and find Absolem.

,,Dear, mothers are exhausting sometimes” Alice mumbled to herself as she hurried through the garden. The blonde walked a while until her house was far enough behind her, then she looked around. ,,Absolem”? She called out ,,Absolem are you there”? No answer. Maybe he wasn't there. ,,I have decided” Alice took a deep breath ,,I want to visit Underland for a while”. Again she was left in nothing but silence. Nervously the young woman stroked the skirt part of her dress. ,,Absolem”? Gradually Alice began to think that it might have been just a dream indeed. ,,I should have known” she sighed disappointed ,,It was just a dream” ready to turn Alice lowered her head. ,,Where are you going”? A deep voice asked and Alice twirled around. ,,Absolem”! Her face lit up instantly and she ran up to where the blue butterfly was floating. ,,I already thought I had been dreaming”! ,,You think to much”! Absolem stated and a even bigger smile formed on Alice lips. ,,Come”! Absolem called simply as he always did and turned to fly ahead. Alice followed.

A few minutes later, Alice found herself in the middle of a forest. ,,Where are you leading me”? She called out but Absolem gave her no answer. ,,You're always like that” Alice panted ,,Only answering when you want to” she kept following the wise butterfly. Swiping branches and leaves away, climbing over sticks, larger boles and roots. Sometimes she stumbled. Blowing a strand of her hair away, she sighed and put her hand on a large tree to rest for a moment. ,,You're sure this is the right way”? Absolem tunred ,,Hurry up”! Sighing, Alice lifted the hem of her dress and began to run after her winged friend.

In front of a small cave she stopped. ,,A cave”? Alice frowned but followed Absolem in. Nothing was to weird for her anyway.
,,Honestly, nothing surprises me anymore” the young blonde kept on walking ,,I only hope this time its not about...” she stopped as suddenly the ground under her feet disappeared and she fell. ,,Falling”! She screamed.

At first, everything around her was black since she was falling through a hole in the ground. As Alice lifted her head to examine her surroundings, she found that the walls around her were stony. Instead of furniture and other things you would find in your household , crystals and gemstones were appearing in all colors and shapes, sticking out of the cave walls. Gleaming and glittering. ,,Wow” Alice aspirated in awe. This was new. All of the sudden the stony cave tunnel opened up and she fell straight through the sky again. Not again, she thought, but it was too late.

Alice gave it a high pitched scream as she realized she was falling at high speed. She hated it. She absolutely hated the feeling of falling. Her scream got even louder as she recognized the large trees beneath her. This time it weren't the beautiful cherry blossom trees of the white queen. This time they were forest trees. Big ones.

Ruggedly she sought through the branches. Screaming and whining complains. Suddenly her downfall stopped and she found herself dangling on a branch. ,,Whew” Alice breathed out, relieved. ,,Finally I stopped this stupid fa...Hiahhh” and the branch she was hanging on broke and she finally fell down to kiss the ground. ,,Ough” she huffed out. Swirling up dirt and fallen leaves around her.

A few seconds passed until the young woman crawled into a sitting position. Her hair was now hanging wildly over her shoulders. Irritated and shaken up the blonde swiped her hair out of her face and looked around. She didn't recall anything of this place. She had no idea where she was. ,,Geez" she murmured ,,Whats up with all this falling”? Alice grumbled a bit annoyed as she stood up on her feed. ,,Oh great” The blonde sighed as she found her dress ripped and dirty. The fall through the large trees must have ripped her dress here and there. ,,Thank goodness I didn't rip my skin” Alice determined as she started to walk a bit, remembering the clawmarks of the Bandersnatch. She had to find out where she was.

,,Absolem”? She called in hope he would still be there but she didn't get any answer. Looking around curiously she tried to find a sign to show her where to go. Nothing. ,,Hello”? Alice called once more but no one answered. Gently the blonde wrapped her hands around her arms as if she was freezing. ,,I need to find a way out of this forest”.

Alice was walking a good while until she finally stepped out of the gloomy forest. It was already getting darker and grey clouds formed at the sky, telling her it would be raining soon. ,,Oh please no” Alice breathed in deeply. At least she found a sign that said ,,Mamoreal, 10 kilometers”. ,,Finally” Alice quickened her steps as she followed the road that lead up to the white queens castle.

About five minutes later, the first drops of rain were falling down. Alice gave it an unpleased sigh. All she wanted was to be save in Miranas castle and see all her friends again. Of course she was more than happy to be back in her Wonderland, but it wasn't a big help to be lost somewhere. After all, Underland was a country and she didn't even know half of it.

It came as it had to and sooner as Alice wished for it, it was pouring down on her. ,,Nice” she murmured her discomfort as she kept on walking. ,,Ten kilometers Alice...”

More and more the rain started to soak Alice hair and dress until everything was drenched and dripping. Alice wondered how much longer she would have to walk. Now she was indeed freezing and beginning to get tired. I dont want to catch a cold. She thought to herself.
The sky darkened up. Soft thunder echoed through the land and some lightening shot across the horizon. ,,Oh please let me be there soon” Alice whimpered. Why in the world was it getting dark already? Didn't she leave at noon? Or was the time different here in Underland? It was most likely so. Alice knew other countries had different time scales. China for example. Now Alice began to wonder if Absolum couldn't had let her drop down somewhere near her friends like last time. Now she was all on her own.

Time passed and Alice stumbled further and further. Finally, after an hour, that made Alice feel like a half of eternity, she had reached Mamoreal. Alice recognized the cherry blossom trees. Did they always bloom? Alice shook her head. She just happened to never arrive in winter. The blonde was so tired, she could barely walk anymore, nor keep her eyes open. Alice was so exhausted just from falling and walking. She was sure the rain and the soaked dress did their part as well.
Alice was now pretty close to the castle door. She managed to knock but as soon as the guards opened the doors, Alice fainted of exhaustion and tiredness and dropped straight into the arms of one of Miranas maiden.

,,My queen! My queen”! The maid shouted through the castle ,,A girl! A girl! It fainted! She's all wet”! It didn't take Mirana long to rush out of her room where she had been dealing with some paper work. Quickly she headed up to the group of white dressed maiden, to check on the cause of the turmoil. Gracefully as if she was floating she walked up to the small growd. Concerned Mirana took a look at the thoroughly soaked girl, which was dripping strongly. The blonde hair hang into her face and the dress that seemed to be a faded shade of blue was dirty and ripped at the bottom. ,,Oh my dear” the white queen aspirated ,,poor thing”. The maids tried to rise her up higher so the queen could have a better look at the girl”. ,,Are you alrigh...ALICE” the queen yelped as she recognized who it was. ,,Oh my goodness gracious” She looked around ,,Get a bath ready and a room! And fresh cloth! Oh and towels”!
,,Yes my queen” the maiden replied and rushed into different directions, leaving Alice in the arms of the queen.

The first thing Alice realized as she woke, was the feeling of soft material all around her. It was warm and cozy. She didn't feel wet anymore. What happened? Alice tried to remember. Now she finally recalled the past events. She fell down to Underland and found her way to Miranas castle. It had been raining strongly and she was exhausted and tired. Did she faint? Slowly the blonde opened her eyes. The room was dim but she could still see that the sun was already up and shining through the still closed curtains. Carefully Alice turned her head to the side. A big smile spread across her face as she saw the white queen sitting next to the bed she was in. ,,Alice” the queen aspirated. Her face was a mixture of concern, surprise and relieve. ,,Mirana” Alice whispered happily. ,,Oh my dear Alice” Mirana came a bit closer. ,,You had me worried” the white queen stated. Alice frowned ,,I don't remember what happened. I found your castle and then...did I faint”? The white queen nodded. ,,My maiden found you. You were completely wet and cold. Alice, dearest, what brought you here”? Mirana examined her friend closely. ,,I came back to visit you all” Alice explained obviously ,,I missed you so terribly much” her expression saddened while Mirana's gaze changed into a soft and understanding one. ,,Oh my dear Alice” she said ,,You have no idea. We missed you too”. And for a moment both just smiled at each other. ,,I have so much to tell you” Alice told her enthusing. ,,I do so too” the white queen countered with a warm smile. ,,Uhm” Alice looked at the queen a bit confused ,,How did I get clean”? Mirana gave it a light chuckle ,,Don't worry, my maiden washed you and dried your hair. I do hope you got some rest”? Alice nodded returning the smile again. ,,Now, I will give you time to get up and change. I will be waiting at the patio to my garden”. ,,Ok” Alice replied and watched Mirana leave the room.

Once the white queen had left, Alice let out a huge sigh. She was back. She really made it back. Her heart started pounding in excitement. Happily the blonde crawled out of the huge bed. Shoved the thick large blanked aside and got down on her feet. She was wearing a nice night gown. White with a lot of lace and a silk ribbon around the waist. Her blonde hair was dry and fell in beautiful curls over her shoulders. Alice looked at herself in the mirror. She couldn't stop smiling. She was so happy to be here.

At the other side of the room was a large wardrobe, a table and a chair. Alice went up to the wardrobe and opened it up. Of course most of the dresses where white. Nevertheless, Alice loved the style of the dresses. She decided to take a long lace dress. As she had it on, she went back to the mirror to check it. She looked amazing. It suited her just fine. Quickly Alice tied her long bangs back but let the rest of the hair open.
Satisfied with her looks, Alice opened the door and walked down the corridor out to the patio where the queen was waiting.

,,Ah, there you are” Mirana greeted her ,,Please, take a seat”. Still smiling Alice sat herself down to a chair towards the queen. ,,I see you found a dress”? Mirana tilted her head. ,,Yes” Alice answered ,,It's lovely. Thank you”. ,,You're welcome my dear” Mirana replied. ,,Now” she began, pouring some tea in their cups. ,,Tell me, how have you been the last three years”? Alice lowered her gaze, her smile faded a bit. ,,Well, I guess I archived everything I always wanted. I sailed around the world, saw many places, learned a lot..but”. ,,But”? Mirana smiled at her, moving her fingers. ,,I just....I just couldn't stop missing you guys” Alice explained in a soft and sad tone. Mirana gave Alice an understanding look. ,,I knew I would miss you guys...but that much”? Alice looked at the queen again. ,,Oh Alice” Mirana aspirated softly ,,We thought the same”. ,,You did”? Alice eyes widened a bit. It made her heart skip a beat to know her friends felt the same. ,,Yes of course” The white queen stirred her tea. ,,Did anything bad happen though since I was gone”? Alice asked worry in her tone. ,,Oh no no” Mirana shook her head ,,Not at all, at least no catastrophes”. ,,Hm, glad to hear that” Alice chuckled. ,,Yes” Mirana rose her head ,,We all had been glad. Thanks to you Alice, Underland was in peace again. At peace at least”. ,,I am so happy I could help” Alice answered and Mirana just kept on smiling at her.

,,So you made it here for a vacation I suppose”? The queen guessed. ,,Yes I did” Alice beamed in joy ,,I didn't think it would be possible. I really thought I would never be able to see you all again. But Absolem came to me”. Mirana laughed ,,So he reached you”!. ,,What was that”? Alice blinked. ,,Oh, You don't know”? Mirana tilted her head. ,,What do I not know”? Alice asked rather confused. ,,Well he looked after you ever since you had left Underland three years ago. He looked after you to see if you're fine and happy. And I now I see, he finally talked to you”. Alice sighed. It also felt good to hear that her friends were concerned about her well being. ,,I appreciate it very much”! Alice then countered. ,,I knew you would” Mirana said. A Few moments of silence passed in which both the queen and Alice were drinking her tea and enjoyed the time together. Then finally Alice rose her voice again. ,,Uhm...how are the others....”. The white queen grinned at Alice. ,,They are all good. Of course everyone missed you dearly. Bayards puppies are grown now, but he has got a new bunch not to long ago”. ,,Aaw” Alice gave it a keen expression. ,,You can meet them later if you'd like”. ,,I would like that very much”! Alice cheered. ,,Mc Twisp is working as my messenger and is up at the go through Underland. But I am sure he will be back soon to see you” Mirana continued. ,,What about...” Alice took her cup tighter into her hands. She could have sworn she was getting nervous but why? Her throat went dry and her hands sweaty and her fingers cold. Mirana again tilted her head in confusion. ,,The hatter”? Mirana spoke out what Alice wanted to say. Now she was scolding herself in her mind. Are you a fool Alice? What's gotten into you all of the sudden? You hadn't been that weird three years ago. ,,Are you ok”? The white queen asked in a concearned tone and Alice flinched a bit. ,,Oh yeah..yes sorry uhm. So how is he..the Hatter I mean”. ,,He is he, if it's that what you mean” Mirana smiled. ,,So he's well” Alice spoke, rather to herself and sipped at her tea. ,,Yes, as far as I know" Mirana caught up the speach. ,,You know he works for me again now. So he's visiting me from time to time. I had been asking him a few times if he'd like to move into my castle but he refused”. ,,Oh” Alice made, getting her attetion back to the queen. ,,Anyway” Mirana smirked ,,Anything else you want to know”? Alice thought. For some strange reason, talking about the hatter was making her feel funny. Instead she decided to ask about the march hare and the dormouse. ,,And Thackery and Mallymkun”? Alice commenced again. ,,They are like always" Mirana stated ,,Thackery is as, uhm, you know...” Mirana tried to explain. ,,as mad as always”? Alice finished and they both cuckled. ,,Yes” Mirana confirmed. ,,Mallymkun really talked a lot about you. She looked up to you for saving Underland twice”. Alice smiled. ,,Did Hatter say something about me too”? Alice blurted out, not realizing her sudden action. ,,Huh”? Miranas expression got surprised again but then she snickered and smiled once more. Alice felt her cheeks burn up, her heart beat speeding up, hammering in her chest. ,,Not much as far as I can recall” Mirana told her, her smile fading a bit. ,,Really”? Alice eyes went big and her stomach tightened in a weird unknown way to her. ,,He was quite sad about you leaving you know”. ,,Oh....I see” Alice murmured afflicted and continued to sip her tea. Feeling utterly bad. She hadnt realized how much it had hurt the hatter. She herself was deeply sad but how much worse had it been for the hatter? Alice couldn't help but get the feeling that the white queen was hiding something from her. ,,Anything else”? She asked. ,,Well of course he missed you too” Mirana explained. ,,Yeah...I missed him too” Alice put her cup down on the plate. ,,But look you're back again” the queen cheered ,,Everyone will be overjoyed to see you”. Finally Alice smiled again. The thought of seeing them all, made her forget the troublesom ones. ,,Come, lets go and meet Bayard and the pupps” Mirana decided and got up swiftly.

Alice followed her into the garden. Around a few corners they arrived at a clearing that was surrounded in cherry blossom trees. Bayard was playing with his cubs and his mate but as he saw Alice, he stopped and began to wag his tail vividly. ,,Alice”! he barked in surprise. ,,Bayard”! Alice got down to her knees to catch the dog in her arms. ,,I'm so happy to see you” Alice laughed. ,,I am too” Bayard rubbed his head against Alice cheek. Seconds later all the puppies came running to the young blonde. ,,Aww you're all so cute”! Alice beamed and started to pet one after another. ,,They are gorgeous Bayard” she praised. ,,Thank you”! Bayard and his mate smiled happily.

,,Well well well” another familiar voice broke the laughter and Alice looked up. Out of the air a turquoise striped cat appeared. Grinning widely. ,,Chess”! Alice called out ,,My dear friend”. The big cat flew around and came close up to her face. ,,What a exceedingly pleasant surprise” he purred. Alice grinned ,,I know. I didn't think it would be possible, but I am back, I am really back and I am going to stay for a while”. Chess grinned even more ,,Wonderful. The Hatter will be greatly delighted if he hears those news”. Alice felt her heart skip a beat at the statement. ,,I can't wait to see him either” Alice aspirated in joy. ,,Sure” Chess vanished and appeared around her shoulders ,,I would love to stay and chat with you love, but I guess I will get going and tell the others you're here” he explained in his usual lazy voice, grinning all along. ,,Please do”! Alice patted his head. For once he let her and didn't deflagrate. ,,See you later then” he called as he flew up and then vanished.

Chapter Text

A few moments had passend, in which Tarrant just stayed in front of the mirror and watched the glass that Alice had gone through. She was gone. She really left. Left him again. Again she was gone and there was nothing he could have done to keep her.
His heart was hurting and his head spinning. He didn't want to believe that she was never going to come back. That just couldn't be true. She had to come back. Surely she would come back some day.
That's what the hatter told himself. Nobody seemed to know or even understand what was going on inside of him. He didn't even know himself.
Behind him, the others shared concerned and sad expressions. Nobody dared to say something. It was an awkward silence in which they all feared to say something wrong. After all, nobody wanted to upset the hatter.
It was Mallymkun, who finally managed to get a hold of her voice.

,,Hatter”! She called soft and carefully ,,are you ok”? Slowly he turned around to face his friends. He wasn't smiling. Sadness covered his features. ,,Yeah..I think I am..” the hatter murmured and stepped away from where he was standing ,,Thanks Mally..”. Without another gaze, he just walked past them.

,,Aww poor Hatter” Mallymkun sniffed ,,It breaks my heart to see him like that”. ,,Yeah” Bayard agreed ,,It hit him pretty hard”. ,,I can't believe she's really gone” Mallymkun wiped the fresh tears away. ,,Well, but we all knew it would come” Mc Twisp hopped at the Bloodhounds side ,,We knew she would leave again”. ,,But we wanted her to stay”! Deedle Dee said ,,I will miss her a lot”. ,,Me too” his brother Deddle Dum added. ,,What now”? Thackary looked into the direction in which the hatter walked. ,,Maybe we should go and cheer him up” Mc Twisp suggested. ,,No”! Another voice joined the discussion. It was Chessur. His smile had also faded. It was so small, that you couldn't really call it a smile anymore. ,,I think it's the best, that we leave him alone for a while. Besides...” He flew ahead and also pointed towards the hatter, who was walking to the Hightopps. ,,He just got his family back. He should spent some time with them now”. ,,Right” Mallymkun shook her head to pull herself together ,,And if he needs us, we will be there” her eyes gleamed ,,I just hope, he wont fall into a deadly depression again”.

It didn't take long for Tarrants family to sense something happened when he returned with a face of pure sadness. His mother was the first one, who rushed up to her son. ,,Oh dear, Tarrant! What happened”? ,,She's gone”! He answered in a low and quiet voice. More to himself than to the others. ,,Who? Who is gone”? Tyva asked, while tilting her head to examine her sons face better. ,,Alice” Tarrant blinked. ,,Alice? The blonde girl”? His fahter rose his voice while he just nodded. Zaniks features softened. With a gaze to his wife, he also found she was thinking the same. He had watched his son and Alice earlier. He'd already guessed his son liked her but now it was even clearer to him. ,,I am sorry son” he finally said, while putting his hand on his shoulder. ,,But look what you did. You saved us all”. ,,No” Tarrant interrupted him and lifted his head ,,No I didn't”. ,,I don't understand” his mother looked at him no less confused that the rest of the family. ,,What do you mean”? ,,I did not save you” Tarrant repeated ,,Alice did”! ,,Alice”? Zanik frowned. ,,Alice saved you! And she saved me”! Tarrant stepped into the middle ,,Alice took the cromosphere and traveled into the past to warn you all because I thought I had lost you. I though you were...” he stopped for a second. Tears gleaming in his eyes ..I thought you were dead”! ,,Oh no, Tarrant” his mother stepped back at his side to rub his arm comforting. The rest of his family, including his father just looked at him deeply emotional.
,,I had found that old paper piece of my first hat” Tarrant continued ,,I thought, if it survived, you must have too”! He looked around with a small smile ,,I wanted to save you and so I asked everybody to help me find you” but then his expression fell again ,,But no one believed me”. Tarrant paused again, shuttering at the thought of his depression that almost killed him. ,,Then, I fell into depression” he finished and his whole family gasped in shock. His mother looked as if she was ready to faint, while his father gritted his teeth. ,,And we couldn't do anything” Zanik hissed under his breath. He felt terrible that the and his son had those many fights. Hearing what he had gone through broke his heart. It made him feel like he failed as a good father.
,,But Alice..” Tarrant rose his voice and a smile came back on his lips as he spoke her name ,,My Alice saved me! She saved me and she saved you all”. ,,Pity we can't thank her anymore” his sister gave it a sad pound and Tarrants smile faded as soon as it came. ,,Paloo” Tyva hissed next to her and she immediately lowered her head in shame ,,Sorry mother”. For one thing, the hightopps were in fact very intelligent people. It ran in the family and every one of them understood, that Tarrant obviously liked that Alice. Knowing that, it was to avoid anything that could make Tarrant even sadder.
Eventhough Paloo had bunches of questions burning in her mind, she decided to keep them to herself. Seeing her brother as sad as he was, she couldn't bare to ask him any more of that Alice girl.

,,I think it's best we go home now” Tvya declared with a look to her husband. ,,But what about the family reunion party”? Bumalig heckled and earned a stern gaze from her younger sister.
,,Uhm..” Tarrant rose his voice and instantly his family looked back at him. ,,I am very happy to have you all back but...” he looked down at his hands ,,But I think I need some time alone”. Tvya tilted her head and went up to hug her son ,,Of course sweetie” she put her hand on his cheek ,,If you need anything, you know where to find us”. ,,We are back now”. ,,Your mother is right” Zanik took a deep breath ,,You can always come to us if you want to talk. I just hope, after everything, you can still trust me”. Tarrant turned once more to face his father. ,,I forgave you”. A relived smile spread on Zaniks lips and finally he as well, gave his son a hug. ,,If you'd excuse me now” Tarrant gave them a last smile and then turned away to walk ahead.
He really didn't feel like smiling at all, so it faded again as soon as he turned his back on his family. All he wanted now, was to get out of that clock tower and get some fresh air. His emotions were a twirling tornado and he had no idea if he should scream or cry. Maybe both.

Finally he stepped out of the clock tower. It was already dawning and the air was colder now. Tarrant took a deep breath. He welcomed the feeling of wind brushing his face. He needed to calm down.
,,Hatter wait”! The small voice of Mallymkun echoed behind him, followed by the hopping steps of the march hare. A bit taken by surprise Tarrant turned his head. He'd completely forgotten about his friends for a while. But they were still there.
,,Mally”! He called as he got down on his knees to catch her in his hands. ,,I am sorry I just went ahead without you”. ,,It's fine” she smiled at him understanding. ,,But please...Are you really ok Tarrant”? Her eyes looked firmly at him. ,,I don't know Mally” the hatter admitted honest. ,,It's ok. We're all here for you”! Mallymkun put her small white hand on his cheek. At the gesture a small smile crept back to Tarrants lips. It was the same gesture his mother gave him and it filled him with a warm comforting feeling. It was soothing somehow. ,,Let's go home” he declared with a look to Mallymkun and Thackery and rose to his feet. Silently and with no more words, they walked back home together.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

,,Hatter”! Mallymkuns voice pulled him back from his trance. ,,Hm”? Tarrant lifted his head, looking around and then back to the white mouse, who had her hands on her hips, looking unpleased. ,,Sorry Mally, where were we”? He rose his eyebrows and his lips to a excusing grin. ,,The new hats you made” Mallymkun sighed and shook her head. ,,Oh yes yes” Tarrant lifted his hand to continue his story ,,So I ...” suddenly he stopped with a frown, as his gaze went up into the air where a certain teal striped cat appeared.
,,I am truly sorry to interrupt your highly interesting chat” the lazy voice purred. Grinning Chess floated right above the many tables. ,,Greetings to you all“ he started while examining the three who were sitting. Mallymkun was the first one to speak. ,,Chessur“! She called out happily. Ever since he'd saved the Hatter from getting his head chopped off, she used to like him more than ever. ,,Hello Chessur” Tarrant greeted as well ,,Care for some tea”? Chess vanished and reappeared shortly again right down at the chair he usually sat down on. ,,Thanks” he purred ,,But that's not why I'm here”. ,,It's not”? Tarrant gave it a confused frown. ,,No” the striped cat repeated in a promising tone, tracing the edge of one cup.
Mallymkun stood on her feet, looking over to Chessur with huge curiousity ,,Tell us Chess, tell us”! ,,Fine! A certain someone returned to us” Chessur declared, grinning even wider. ,,Alice”!? Tarrant and Mallymkun shouted coincident soThackary who was napping, shot his ears up straight as arrows at the sound of the name. ,,What? Who? Alice? Where”? He threw his head left and right. ,,Alice is back”? Tarrants mood lightened up in a way it hadn't for three years and his heart started to pound as if it wanted to jump out of his chest. ,,Right”! Chessur confirmed ,,Alice is back”! ,,But how is that possible”? Mallymkun jumped down from where she was standing ,,I thought she said she won't come back”!
Suddenly Tarrant gazed over to her with a stern expression, his smile faded into a frown and his eyes flickered in a pale orange. Instantly the white mouse lowered her ears ,,Oops...Sorry” she murmured, covering her mouth. Knowing it was a very big No-no to bring up certain topics. Alice leaving, was one of it.

Tarrant cleared his throat, turning his attention back to the grinning cat. ,,You better be not lying” he said. His voice still low and serious. ,,Tarrant please” Chessur looked at him ,,I wouldn't dare to joke about that”. ,,I knew she'd come back! I just knew it” Mallymkun cheered again while Thackery laughed along. Tarrant recovered quickly and his bright smile came back. ,,Well were is she now”? Chessur floated back into the air ,,She's at Mamoreal. With the white queen”. Energetic Tarrat rose, knocking over some cups and cakes. ,,What are we waiting for then? Off we go. Quick, quick, hurry. No wasting time”! he declared as he hurtled past the long tables, catching Mallymkun in the process. Now knowing that his Alice was back, he couldn't leave the place soon enough. ,,Hey, wait for me”! Thackery threw a cup after the Hatter and Mallymkun who was now sitting on his shoulder giggling. ,,Well then. I'll go and get the twins and the rabbit” Chessur raised his voice again, floating ahead ,,I'll meet you at the castle”! ,,Don't take too long”! Mallymkun called after him, while Tarrant ignored him completely. He was way to excited. All he wanted now, was to get to Miranas place and that as quick as possible.

Both Tarrant and Mallymkun walked a while until she started talking again ,,I can't believe she's back. Isn't that wonderful”? Mallymkun clapped her tiny hands. ,,Oh it's absolutely wonderful” The Hatter agreed and then gazed back into the distance. No words could describe how he was feeling inside. His thoughts were running wild. He really couldn't believe it. Alice was back. His dear Alice. Though he didn't quite understand it. Three years ago, she had told him, that she might never return, and he believed her. It had broken his heart into pieces. It had hurt him more than he had ever thought it would hurt him. It had hurt him in a way he didn't even know it could hurt him. He just never accepted the thought of Alice never returning.
He had dreamed about her numerous times, but even he had to realize eventually, that dreams weren't reality. It just wasn't the same without her.
The pretty blonde had become a inconceivable part of everyone and he had missed her more than anything. Tarrant thought back of the first few months. After some time his sadness had turned into anger. He was mad at himself for letting her go. Nobody was allowed to speak about her leaving or even about the time in the clock tower. It made him furious and he didn't know why. It stabbed him like a dagger, like a sword and to circumvent the feelings, he just avoided everything that reminded him of that day.
However, Alice was back and there were no reasons for him to think on that day anymore. The closer he came to the castle, the more his excitement grew. With every step he took, his heart sped up. In fact, he was so focused on finally seeing Alice, that he didn't even notice when Chessur and the others caught up to them. Mallymkun seemed to get more nervous as well. Tarrant could hear her letting out squeaks of excitement. ,,Almost there Mally, Almost there” he assured.

Alice paced through the garden impatient. She couldn't recall the last time she had been so nervous. Why was she so nervous? Mirana watched the blonde with amusement but suddenly she turned her head as if she heard something. ,,I think they're coming” she said, the smile back on her dark lips. Alice stopped abruptly and turned to the white queen ,,They're there”?. ,,On the way. Almost there”! Mirana explained ,,Let's go and great them then, shall we”? Gracefully she turned on her heels, her hands moving swiftly. Alice followed her quickly. Jogging, to keep up with the white queen. Her heart was hammering up to her ears. Her hands were cold and sweaty and her stomach was tightening up. She felt almost dizzy. Her mind flashing Questions. How would they react? How would, he, react if he saw her?

In front of the castle they stopped. Mirana next to Alice, lifted her chin, eyes gleaming joyfully. Alice heart stood still, as she spotted the small group of familiar faces coming closer and closer. Her eyes widened and instantly tears welled up in her eyes.
Tarrant as well, stopped for a second. His heart fell at the sight before him. There she was, his Alice. Still a bit far away, but he instantly recognized her. He, after all, would recognize, her, anywhere. It was by no doubt Alice. His Alice. She was really here.
,,There she is”! Mallymkun called and pointed into her direction, jumping on his shoulder. ,,It's Alice! Its really her”! One of the Tweedles began ,,I told you it's her! Told you she would come back”! ,,No I told you she would come back”!
Chessur who floated next to them grinned up to his ears and wiggled his tail from one side to the other. Purring loudly ,,Told you”! Mallymkun, who now realized that the Hatter stood frozen, stopped her happy jumping and stomped her foot. ,,Hatter”! she called ,,What are you doing? Keep walking”! ,,Hhm”? Tarrant flinched from his trance and quickly gazed up to a very inpatient dormouse. ,,Yeah, uhm sorry”! He mumbled and kept walking. Sooner than expected he was close enough to where Alice and the white queen were standing. The biggest smile spread upon his lips, as he made a few steps towards the blonde.

Alice blinked. There they were. Her friends. Looking at her as awestruck and emotional as she herself. And there he was, looking at her with his bright green eyes. His lips formed the smile she had missed so much, revealing the little gap between his teeth. ,,Hatter”! Alice yelled and took off running. Running straight up to him, she threw herself into his arms so quickly, that he slightly bent and stumbled backwards. Mallymkun had just the time to jump off his shoulder. Without thinking, Tarrant wrapped his arms around Alice waist and pulled her even tighter. ,,Oh Alice”! He called ,,You're back”! ,,I'm back”! Alice sobbed happily as she pressed her head into the side of his neck ,,I am back”!. After a few seconds of hugging, they let go to look at each other. ,,I am so happy to see you Hatter”! Alice aspirated, tears still rolling down her cheeks. ,,I am so happy too”! Tarrant cheered, examining her from top to bottom ,,It's really you isn't it”? For a moment he feared it might be another dream he would wake up to, so he reached up to touch her face. ,,It's really me”! Alice chuckled ,,I am really here”! and Tarrant smiled even wider. ,,Look at you” he mused ,,You have changed”. Alice snickered ,,Yes. I got older Tarrant. I am not a child anymore”. A flash of surprise shot across his face, as he heard his name from her mouth. He couldn't recall many times, when Alice called him by his name. Quickly he shook himself out of his thoughts ,,Of course not”! Tarrant chuckled ,,I know that. I didn't mean it in a bad way. You changed in a good way. You look wonderful. Delightful, lovely, marvelous, gorgeous, fabulous..”! ,,Hatter”! Alice stopped his rambling. Still laughing. ,,Sorry” he whispered. ,,Oh dear I missed you so much”! she wiped her tears. Tarrant didn't know what to do whit all his emotions. At one point, he just wanted to pull her back into his arms but since all the others stood around them, watching, he just kept smiling at her. ,,I have so much to tell you, how about we..” he couldn't finish his sentence since Mallymkun broke them off with her clearing her throat.

,,Do you mind”? She looked at them and then to Alice ,,We would like to greet her as well”! Alice lowered herself down to the white mouse with a big smile ,,Hello Mallymkun”. ,,Alice”! The white mouse called and hopped onto her shoulder with ease. ,,Oh I missed you Alice”! Loving the blonde tilted her head a bit so Mallymkun could hug her face. ,,I knew you'd come back”!

,,What about us”? The tweedles called. ,,Oh of course” Alice got down to her knees and Mallymkun jumped onto Bayard. ,,We missed you so much Alice” Tweedle Dee started ,,Very much” Tweedle Dum added ,,Wasn't as bright here without you”, ,,We were always thinking about you”. Alice laughed again and bent in to hug them ,,Thank you my friends, I was thinking about you too”. And as Mc Twisp also joined in, Alice could barley separate the many voices of her friends anymore, all scrambling to hug her and talking all at once.

Mirana, who had recognized the hatters unease, gazed over to him. Eventhough he watched the scene in delight, something seemed to bother him. His smile wasn't as bright as it had been a few moments ago. Mirana already guessed his desire, so she decided she had to help them up a bit. Clearing her throat graciously she clapped her hands. Instantly everyone turned their attention to her. ,,Let's give Alice and Tarrant some time alone shall we? Alice will surely have enough time to spent with everyone of you later”. With a smile she looked at Alice and then back to Tarrant who already furrowed his brows in confusion. Mallymkun seemed to understand the unspoken words of the queen quicker than the rest. ,,Yeah, she's right, let's get inside, we'll have enough time later”. Mc Twisp wiggled his nose but it didn't take him long either to understand that he'd better listen to the queen ,,Agreed, lets get inside”! Irritated the twins looked at each other and then up to Alice who was still smiling at them. ,,I don't get it” one of them said. ,,Me neither”. ,,Time alone”? ,,Why”? ,,Not fair”. ,,Get moving”! Mallymkun swung her sword and they kept walking. Alice didn't even have to say anything so she just watched amused. Mumbling the twins passed them and went up to the queen. Chessur gave Alice a wink, before he vanished with a huge grin of his. Tarrant still confused, glanced to the side, not quite getting the sudden change of situation while Alice kept on chuckling.

,,Well” Mirana made a movement with her hand ,,We shall see each other later then”. ,,Alright” Alice smiled and watched them all leave, still mumbling and talking silently while they followed the queen back to the castle. Leaving her standing alone with the Hatter. Tarrant had his eyes fixed on them walking, trying to understand the gesture of the queen. Not that it didn't please him. In fact, he was kind of relieved they went inside so he could spent time alone with Alice. At least, that's what he had in mind after all.

,,Shall we go to the garden then”? Alice rose her voice and took the Hatter back from his trance. ,,Huh, oh, uh sure” he quickly answered. Smiling he offered her his arm which she gladly took. While they were walking alone, it suddenly clicked in his head and he got the hint. Now he was more than thankful towards the queen, for making them have some time alone. His grin got even wider as he understood.
Together they walked into one of the many gardens, surrounded by cherry blossom trees and small waterfalls.
Coming to a white bench, Tarrant led Alice to sit down first. ,,Thank you” she aspirated and waited until he sat himself next to her. A moment of silence passed until Tarrant rose his voice ,,So uhm..” the started a bit awkwardly, not really knowing how to start the conversation. ,,What made you come back..”? His voice went from his happy lisp to his usual low toned one. He wasn't quite sure why he started with this topic but for some reason he had to know. Something in him wished, that it had to do with him.
Alice turned to look at the hatter. Her expression fell a bit and her mouth opened. ,,I...” lowering her gaze she sighed ,,I thought it was obvious..” lifting her eyes back to him ,,I am so sorry Hatter”. There was so much sadness in her voice that Tarrant instantly felt bad for reminding her. He surly made a mistake. ,,Why no, don't be”! Tarrant hurried to fix things ,,You don't have to be sorry Alice”. ,,But I am”! she declared, tears gleaming in her eyes again ,,I know I thought I would never see you again...and I just left you all but....Oh Hatter, I wanted to come back all along. I never wanted it to be so that I could never come back. I was afraid”! For a moment Tarrant didn't say anything, he just listened and looked at her. ,,I know” he then whispered ,,You don't have to excuse yourself for anything my dear Alice” careful he reached his hand to her cheek, wiping her tears away. Finally, Alice smiled again and leaned into the soft touch.

Something had definitely changed. It was a small but meaningful moment for both of them. Both, shared a deep connection and trusted each other with their lifes.
A warm tingling sensation shot through Tarrants body, as he felt her warmth in his hand. It wasn't quite new to him though. He had felt it before. Six years ago, when Alice came back a second time and he felt it three years ago, when she'd hugged him, when she'd touched him, whenever she'd looked at him. But never had he felt like he was feeling now. It was weird and it was still new somehow. Never had he even thought about those feelings. They just were there.
However, he didn't want to spent too much of the time thinking of his feelings, he just wanted to value and enjoy the moment. At least he was alone with her, and that was what he'd wanted.

Alice swallowed. Fascinated she looked into his eyes, his green gleaming eyes that she could get lost in. Had these eyes always been that green?
A sudden rustle in the bushes made both Alice and Tarrant flinch away from each other like scared up deers. It was now that they realized how close they had been. A flash of red started to glow on Alice cheeks as she looked away. Running her fingers through her hair nervously. Tarrant on the other hand, just cleared his throat and tried to act as if nothing had happened.

~What happened earlier~

,,I told you this is a bad Idea” Mallymkun hissed at the others. ,,Shht” Mc Twisps nose twitched ,,What if they see us”. ,,If they don't hear us first” Bayard lifted his eyes to his rider. ,,I want to know what they are talking about” Tweedle Dee said ,,Lets get closer” Tweedle Dum nodded to his brother. ,,No” Mallymkun frowned at them ,,Just be quiet”. ,,I am quiet” one of them started ,,I am quieter! Much quieter. You are loud”! ,,I am loud? You are loud” and they started to stop on their feet. ,,Stop it” Mallymkun waved her paws. ,,This is a mess” Mc Twisp let his ears down, shaking nervously. ,,Stop it” he also tried. Thackerys snicker made the whole situation even worse. It came as it had to come. One of the Tweedles accidentally stepped on Bayards back paw. Yowling, the bloodhound jumped a bit, causing the brothers to stumble. Tweedle Dee fell against Mc Twisp and Mc Twisp made Thackery fall straight through the bushes. The rest followed. Bayard was the only one standing, with a very mad and utterly ashamed Mallymkun on his head. Mc Twisp stumbled and hurried to his feed, panting.

~ flashback end ~

As Alice and Tarrants gaze fell on the small group that just fell out of the bushes, their faces fell into a mixture of embarrassment, shock and anger. At least Tarrant seemed upset. His green eyes flickered into a light yellowish orange. Alice head went even redder.
,,We are so sorry” Mallymkun wiped her face ,,It's not what it looks like”! Mc Twisp waved his hands, knowing this statement wasn't bought at all. ,,We just happened to be here too”! Tarrants stern face made them understand that nothing they said, would change his mood now. ,,Just ignore us and forget what happened” Mallymkun declared ,,Just pretend it never happend”. ,,We're going”! Bayard pushed the twins and the march hare into the other direction. Quickly they all hurried away, vanishing around the corner.
Tarrant waited a moment . As he felt his anger cool down, he turned to face Alice. ,,Alice”? He called her softly with a slight lisp. The blonde flinched slightly ,,I-I'm sorry...I...uh...I forgot something” quickly she stood up, ready to leave as well. ,,Alice wait. Please”! Tarrant stood up as well. ,,I'm sorry”! ,,It's not your fault” Alice hurtled ,,Excuse me”! And with that she turned and rushed out of the gardens into the castle. Leaving a confused and disappointed hatter behind.

Chapter Text

Flustered and totally shaken up, Alice hurried through the corridors. Her mind was spinning and her heart was hammering up to her throat. The blood whooshed in her ears and made no effort to leave her head. She felt hot, almost as if she'd caught a fever. Finally she arrived at the door to the room, Mirana had put her in. Quickly and without a second glance, Alice opened up the door and scurried inside. Closing the door behind her as soon as she stood in the room. A deep but quiet sigh escaped her lips and she closed her eyes. Her hands were still on the door handle. Her whole body was trembling. What just happened? Why did she even run away?

Slowly Alice let her hands slip from the handle and turned to let herself down at the wall next to the door. Softly the blonde pressed her hands on her cheeks and covered her face. It still felt hot. In fact, she was glowing but she didn't feel sick at all. Maybe she was indeed about to catch a cold from all the rain. After all, she had been walking about an hour to Miranas castle. Cold and wet and even dropped unconscious.
Leaning her head against the wall, she started recalling what had happened a few minutes ago. She tried hard to think of a proper answer but couldn't find one.

There had been many moments, in which she had been alone with the hatter. Alone and close but never like that. They were best friends after all, or at least that's what Alice always thought. Alice couldn't understand it. All this time, it was him, she missed the most, and now that she was back, she became a nervous wrack around him.

A light knock on the door, made her lift her head. Her heart beat that just calmed a bit, sped up immediately again. What if he was behind the door now? What should she tell him? She didn't even know an answer herself.

,,Alice"? A small but soft female voice called and the blonde breathed out, relieved. It wasn't the hatter. ,,It's me, Mallymkun, are you in there"? Alice blinked at he sound of the voice. The dormouse? ,,Yes" she answered. ,,Can I come in please"? Mallymkun asked and Alice thought for a moment. She couldn't avoid all who wanted to ask her questions. Mallymkun, after all, saw them together and deserved an answer. The small white mouse was, after all, the hatters best friend as well. ,,Come in"! Alice allowed her inside, stood up, opened the door, let the dormouse in and sat down on the bed.

,,Thank you"! Mallymkun walked in and quickly scurried over to the blonde. ,,How are you doing"? Alice didn't look at her ,,I don't know..." she answered honestly. Mallymkun blinked at her ,,I wanted to apologize about...uhm..us watching". ,,It's ok" Alice answered ,,You were curious and nothing happened anyway". Mallymkun tilted her head at that statement ,,What do you mean? Nothing happened"? Alice blushed in a bright red, as she realized ,,I uh...I mean nothing bad...we...we just talked". No matter how hard Alice tried to make it sound normal, in her head it all sounded weird. Mallymkun chuckled and hopped on Alice lap ,,I understand what you mean". ,,It's so weird Mally" Alice mumbled ,,It was never like that". ,,Hm"? Mallymkun continued to look at her questioning. ,,Me and Hatter...we could always talk about anything and now..". ,,Not anymore"? Mallymkun asked. ,,No" Alice aspirated ,,It's not like that...it's more...I feel weird..I get nervous...". The dormouse already knew what Alice was about to figure out, but Mallymkun knew how to keep that knowledge to herself and help Alice at the same time. ,,You like the hatter don't you"? ,,Of course I do"! Alice blurted out as if she got offended ,,He means a lot to me" and quickly added ,,you all do"! Mallymkun smiled at the blonde ,,Don't worry about it. We all loose our nerves sometimes. I've known Tarrant for a very long time Alice, he knows better than that, he will understand. You've been gone long enough, it's ok if your feelings are a bit confused". Alice sighed ,,Mally"? ,,Yes"? ,,Can I ask you something"? Alice looked away as she spoke ,,What'd happened after I went home..."? Mallymkuns face fell as she heard the question. They all tried to avoid to tell Alice. She'd promised the white queen to not tell Alice unless Tarrant himself would tell her. Now she had to tell around it. ,,Well, we were all very sad. We never stopped missing you. I for my part, as you might already know, I was so very very proud of you". Alice smiled and swiped her Finger across the dormouses head. ,,Thank you Mallymkun, but Mirana already told me that, yes. I don't know why, but I got a feeling there's more. If you know more, you can tell me". Mallymkun gave her a serious look. It was no use. She had to be honest with her. Mallymkun liked Alice far too much. ,,Alice" she took a deep breath ,,If you really want to know what happened to the hatter after you left...I suppose you ask him personally". Alice widened her eyes for a second but then understood. The gripping pain came back to her as she thought about the question that was burning in her heart. That must be the reason, everybody was hiding how the hatter was doing after she left. How much had she hurt the hatter really? ,,Alice"? Mallymkuns nose twitched, ready to rise her voice again but stopped as suddenly another knock made both jerk their heads to the door. Alice flinched so bad that Mallymkun jumped from her lap. Startled at the sudden reaction from the blonde.

,,Hello? Alice darling, are you in there"? It was Miranas voice and once more Alice let out a relieved sigh. Why was she so scared to face the hatter? This was not good, definitely not. ,,May I come in"? The queen joyfully asked. ,,Uhm...yeah, yes sure, come in"! Alice went to the door and let Mirana in. ,,Oh, I see you've got company"! The queen smiled at the dormouse. ,,Your highness"! Mallymkun curtsied in a funny way, making the queen laugh. ,,Now" she turned to Alice ,,I wanted to talk to you about a few things". The queens smile faded, as she saw Alice troubled expression. Mirana cleared her throat ,,Mallymkun dear, would you mind, leaving me and Alice alone for a bit"? Quickly the white mouse shook her head, jumping from the bed. ,,Of course not"! As she passed them, she gave Alice a last glance ,,You'll be alright Alice"! And then left. Mirana waited until the dormouse was gone entirely and then turned back to the blonde.

,,Alice...I've seen that face before, only that there's no dragon to slay this time". Alice swallowed, she was kind of angry with herself for feeling so confused and troubled. She had no idea why that was all of the sudden and all she wanted was to feel normal again.

,,What's troubling you Alice"? The queen asked. ,,I embarrassed myself..." the blonde started ,,Me and hatter, we were talking and...I don't know...something was different. And the twins, Bayard, Mc Twistp, they all...all of the sudden they fell out of the bushes and I got nervous". Mirana listened to her calmly ,,And then"? ,,I lost it and I ran away" Alice looked at her hands. Her cheeks started to burn again, which didn't pass the queen unnoticed. ,,And that's what troubles you so much? That they spied on you or that you ran away"? Mirana tilted her head and Alice pressed her lips together. ,,No...yes...maybe...I ..." she turned to face the queen ,,It's..more what would have happened if they didn't fell out of the bushes". Mirana gave her a puzzled expression, trying to stay serious. The queen already guessed what Alice was about to tell her and it was no surprise to her. Mirana had played with the thought of her and the hatter getting closer to each other and that's exactly why she'd installed them to be alone in her gardens for a while. ,,If you don't want to tell me, you don't have to my dear" she smiled again. ,,No.." Alice blinked ,,I want to talk about it...it's better ...I think..". ,,So what do you think would have happened"? Mirana continued to look at her. ,,I think we might ...we might have..." Alice started to blush even darker as her fingers fumbled the fabric of her dress ,,I think we might have kissed...". Mirana couldn't hide her smile anymore, so she grinned toothy at her. ,,And that's a bad thing"?

Alice whipped her head around in surprise ,,ah..." she blinked again, thinking about the queens words. Something in her stomach felt funny again. It was a warm tingle, a flutter. Could it be possible? Was it possible that the hatter had become more than just a best friend to her? Alice swallowed once more and looked Mirana in the eyes. ,,I don't know...I am confused...". ,,But you like him a lot, don't you"? Mirana continued to smirk at the blonde. ,,Yes I do..why does everybody keep asking me that"? Mirana put her hand on Alice shoulder. ,,Alice dear, don't burden yourself with too much thinking. Things will become clear in time". Smiling the white queen led Alice out of the room and walked with her up the corridor. ,,For now" she turned swiftly ,,Let me show you your dress for tonight". ,,My dress? For tonight? What is tonight"? Alice asked curiously, as she followed the queen. ,,The ball of course"! The white queen cheered. ,,The ball"? Alice blurted out. ,,Why yes"! Mirana chuckled and clapped her hands together ,,It's your 'welcome back' ball. Of course we will celebrate your return and you staying for a while". Alice smiled again. It felt good to get her thoughts off for a while. ,,When did you plan all this"? Alice hurried at the queens side. ,,Just earlier" Mirana answered simply and they went to another room. ,,Ready for your surprise"? The white queen asked and Alice looked at her questioning. ,,Surprise"? ,,Oh, you'll see" Mirana added quickly and opened the door. As soon as they entered, Alice eyes went wide and a deep gasp escaped her lips. In front of them, at a mannequin, hang a light blue ball gown. It had a lot of ruffles at the right side and a flower with small ribbons at the waist that reminded Alice a lot of the dress the hatter had done for her when she was as small as a lizard. The top was a tight corsage with a heart shaped neckline. Short, poofy sleeves made they dress look even prettier. It looked crazy and wild but fancy and subtle at the same time. ,,It's incredible Mirana, did you pick that one for me"? Alice smiled overjoyed at her but the queen shook her head. ,,It's a present, like I said. Tarrant made the dress for you". ,,The hatter"? Alice called out, a bit louder than she'd expected, causing Mirana to laugh. ,,B-but how...when? When did he do that? And how did he know about the ball when he was with me just about an hour ago"? Mirana gave Alice an amused look ,,Have you forgotten how fast he works"? Alice thought back to the moment when the hatter had sown her teeny tiny dress within seconds and a bunch of hats for the red queen within a short time. ,,No...I think I remember" Alice responded still amazed by the dress. ,,Want to try it on"? Mirana suggested. ,,Sure" Alice went up to the mannequin and took the dress off of it. ,,You can change behind there"! The white queen pointed to a room divider. A few moments passed until Alice came back out in the dress. Miranas mouth dropped open at the sight of her friend. The dress was absolutely perfectly made for Alice. It hugged her body and complimented her immensely.

,,How do I look"? The blonde asked a bit shyly. ,,You look wonderful Alice" the queen aspirated gleefully ,,It's just perfect for you". Alice smiled happily. ,,When will the ball start"? Mirana thought for a second ,,Soon. I will sent a few of my maiden to you to make your hair, we will see each other later then". Alice blinked in surprise. So quick? How fast did time pass when she was around her friends? The blonde sighed. How would he react, if he saw her? Alice wondered how he was about to look like, what he was about wear at the ball.

Sooner than expected Alice found herself ready and all dressed up in front of a huge mirror. ,,My lady looks absolutely marvelous in that dress" one of the maiden complimented her. ,,You'll be the attention of the whole evening" another one stated. ,,Thank you" Alice responded, still looking at her reflection. She looked so beautiful, she didn't even recognize herself. Her bangs were braided out of her face, while the rest of her hair fell in open curls over her back. Alice didn't wear much make up, besides a soft rose colored lipstick. ,,Here, this will make your look complete" the oldest of the maiden said as she put a small flower into Alice hair. ,,How do I find the ballroom"? The blonde asked the maiden around her. ,,We will escort you" the oldest answered. ,,Ready"? Alice swallowed. Her nervousness grew each second. ,,Yeah.." she turned and walked to the door, followed by the maiden.

In the meanwhile, the ballroom filled up with people from Underland and servants of both queens. Mirana was standing at the throne side, together with her sister, which looked a bit uncomfortable. ,,You'll get used to it Racie" her sister tried to encourage her ,,It's not that hard to be nice". ,,It's not me being nice to them, it's them looking at me like I'm some circus attraction" Iracabeth grumbled. ,,You look fine" Mirana assured her ,,It's still unfamiliar to them. Give them some time and they will surely forgive you". The red haired let out a snort and crossed her arms. Not quiet believing her sisters enthusiasmn. Not far away from the queens, stood the whole hightopp family. Tarrant, however, had walked over to the march hare, Mallymkun and the others. He wore his dark blue coat with suiting pants, a noble cyan colored waistcoat and of course his hat. For the last minutes he had been pacing nervously up and down in front of his friends like a tiger.

,,Tarrant, really, all this pacing won't make time pass by any faster" Mallymkun stated as she shook her head. ,,What if I chased her off? What if she changed her mind and left again"? Tarrants expression fell into a panicking one. ,,Calm yourself Tarrant. If that was the case, then this ball wouldn't go on still" Chessur purred as he floated above the hatters shoulder. ,,You haven't, by pure chance, considered to lend me your hat while you dance"? His grin grew wide as he turned upside down in the air. ,,I have not"! Tarrant quickly put his hands on each side of his hat. Holding it tightly, so the cheshire cat wont snatch it off. ,,Get your own hat" he added, glaring at him. ,,To bad" Chessur meowed ironically and vanished. ,,Oh look, there is Alice"! Mallymkun suddenly called and the hatters head whipped around instantly. As his eyes caught sight of the blonde, walking down the stairs, his heart skipped a beat and his mouth dropped open. Never had he seen her that pretty. Especially not in one of his own dresses. She was absolutely beautiful. Hypnotized by the sight, he walked towards her, stopping in the middle of the ballroom, waiting for her.

Slowly Alice went down the stairs. Her eyes immediately scanned the room for a certain someone. It was full of people. She instantly recognized the white queen, standing with her sister. Not far from them the hatters family and her friends. Finally her eyes fell on the hatter and her heart seemed to stop. He had his deep blue coat on that fitted him just perfectly. It made his hair look like flames. He looked her, dazzled and overwhelmed. For some reason, all the fear that Alice had had a few hours before vanished and all she wanted now was to run back in his arms and tell him she's sorry. But since everybody was watching, she decided to keep herself calm.

Both met in the middle. For a second both just looked at each other. ,,Alice" he then whispered, still amazed by her looks. ,,Tarrant" she spoke his name. The hatters eyes started to gleam at the sound of his own name. It was different when she called him by his real name. Her voice was soft but concrete. ,,You look breathtaking" he complimented her and she chuckled. ,,Thank you...I mean you do too. Thank you for the dress". ,,You're welcome my dear" Tarrant smiled at her. ,,Tarrant..." Alice called him again as she lowered her gaze as well as her voice. ,,Yes" he answered, also low toned. ,,I am sorry for what happened earlier" the blonde began ,,I've lost my nerves...I don't know why I did that...It was not not ok to just leave you standing there with no answer". Tarrants smile went even wider as he listened ,,Don't worry about it Alice". Quickly the blonde looked at him ,,Really"? ,,Really"! He assured her and then bowed slightly ,,For now, my lady, would you take this dance"? Alice beamed ,,Glady" and she put her hand in his and they started to dance.

,,Aaaaw, look at them" Paloo raved ,,They are so adorable together". ,,Is that her? Is that Alice"? Bim, the youngest hurtled at his sisters side. ,,Of course that's her" Paloo declared ,,It has to be her! Have you seen the way he had looked at her when she came down the stairs"? ,,spaced out"? ,,No, with love"! Paloo blinked. ,,Oh, and you are so sure because you were right in front of his face"? Bim frowned at her. ,,Don't be silly"! Paloo countered ,,I know Tarrant and I am not stupid! I know how people act when they're in love". ,,Urgh, don't even start" Bill rolled his eyes and sneaked back to flee from his sisters speech. ,,You are just jealous"! Paloo called after him. ,,As if" he countered. ,,Stop it" Tyva hissed at them and they stopped.

As Alice danced, hand in hand, in the hatters arms, she couldn't feel happier. It was a warm comforting feeling. It felt so welcoming and familiar. Both didn't even talk much, they just starred in each others eyes, smiling at each other. Since a long time, Tarrant found himself lost for words again. Normally he would get more words than he could handle, which would cause him to ramble but this time he was absolutely speechless. He felt more than happy, to have Alice back and it seemed like a dream to him, to have her so close, in his arms, dancing with her. If it was a dream, he wanted to never wake from it. He didn't know it, but Alice at that time, thought the same thing.

It didn't take long and all the others in the room, joined in the waltz. Mirana had grabbed her sisters wrist and pulled her onto the dance floor. ,,Come on Racie, a little dance won't hurt you". ,,I... don't... dance"! the red queen pressed through her teeth while she tried to get away from her sisters grip. ,,Yes you do"! The white queen gave it a last strong pull, causing her sister to stumble backwards. ,,Ok, ok, FINE" the red head stomped her feed ,,No need to drag me across the floor"! Mirana clapped her hand gleefully ,,Wonderful, have fun then"! ,,What"? The red queen blinked in shock ,,What do you mean"? Mirana didn't respond, she just pointed behind her sister with one of her mischievous grins. Stardled her sister turned, only to find one of Miranas servants holding a hand out for her. Completely dumbfounded, Iracabeth starred at the man in the white coat in front of her. It was so weird to her that someone greeted her with a nice gesture, let alone, having the nerve to even wanting to dance with her. After all that she's done? After she'd been so evil? And this man still wanted to dance with her? ,,Care for a dance my queen"? He smiled at her. A hint of pink sneaked upon the red queens cheeks and she blinked. ,,Err..uhm..". ,,I take that as a yes" and sooner than she could react, she was being swiped over the dance floor. Iracabeth knew very well how to dance, but right now, she was so shocked and overwhelmed, that she just stumbled around. Clumsy and awkwardly as if she never danced before. As the dancing pair, passed her sister, she glanced over to her with a expression that said ,,I'm going to kill you". Mirana, thereupon, started laughing heartily. Everything had changed since both sisters shared their reign. Iracabeth wondered, if her sisters servants really meant it, when they were being nice to her, or if they just put an act on. After all, it was Miranas attitude to be nice most of the time, so her servants.

Moments passed in which everybody just danced and enjoyed their time. Alice and Tarrant stopped. ,,Wow, can we take a break" Alice huffed, still smiling. ,,Of course my dear Alice, whatever you want" Tarrant responded. Both sneaked through the dancing people to the edge of the room, close to the stairs. ,,How come you're not exhausted from all that dancing"? The blonde asked. ,,Hmm, I guess I'm well practiced" the hatter grinned. ,,Oh, yes of course" Alice rolled her eyes jokingly ,,How was it again? Best futterwacken-dancer of all time? Now it's the best waltz-dancer as well huh"? Tarrant laughed at that, he never really experienced Alice being humorous, but now that he did, he loved it. ,,But you're also very talented, you know" he complimented her. ,,Compared to you? Pft" Alice shook her head ,,Everything about my dancing skills is just because I needed to learn it. It's a society thing up there, everybody needs to master the most common dances". ,,Oh how interesting"! Tarrant cheered. ,,I think it's tiring" Alice responded and Tarrants smile fell into a pout. ,,Why's that"? Alice looked back at the hatter ,,Dancing up there is not like it's down here. It's stiff and boring. The music is boring. The upper class people like it, but I never did". ,,So you don't like dancing"? Tarrant asked her sounding disappointed ,,Oh no, no" Alice quickly waved her hands ,,Not here, not this dance, not with you...er I mean...I love dancing with you...I mean..." Alice blushed as she realized how bad she was rambling. Wasn't this the hatters part usually? Tarrants smile came back on his lips as he watched her with adoring eyes. ,,Sorry" Alice fumbled her fingers as she frowned ,,That was embarrassing". ,,I think it's cute" the hatter blurted out without thinking and almost instantly widened his eyes in shock over what he just said. Alice starred at him, no less surprised, as he covered his mouth. He thought it was cute? Did that mean he thought she was cute? Both looked away from each other for a second, clearing their throats. Then he turned back to her ,,Alice"? ,,Hatter"? And there it was again, this awkward feeling, this awkward tension between them. This funny feeling, that made their bodies tingle as if a colony of ants was living in theirs veins. ,,Do you want to drink something"? He suggested to change the subject. ,,Yes, that's a good idea" the blonde agreed and together they went to the buffet to grab some water. ,,So.." Alice started ,,How's your family"? Tarrants expression lit up again ,,Oh good you remind me Alice, I've wanted to introduce you to them all the time. You will love them, they're all very nice" His usual happy lisp returned and Alice chuckled. The tension lifted and it felt nonchalant again. ,,I've got three siblings, my older brother, my younger brother and my younger sister. My aunt, my uncle from my mothers side, my aunt and uncle form my fathers side, my grandparents from both sides, my cousin and cousins..". Alice listened to him with amusement as she followed him towards his family. Her excitement grew, the closer they came. Alice instantly recognized the hatters parents first. She remembered their faces, since she'd seen them in the past because of the chronosphere.

,,Mother, father"! Tarrant stepped forward, grinning proudly ,,May I introduce to you" he pulled Alice next to him ,,Alice"! Alice smiled a bit nervously as his parents eyed her joyfully. ,,Oh how wonderful to finally meet you" Tyva cheered ,,Tarrant told us so much about you". ,,Did he"? Alice still smiled. ,,So you're Alice" Zanik moved next to his wife and reached his hand out to shake Alice hers. ,,Pleased to meet you sir" Alice tried hard to stay serious and act as if she'd seen them for the first time. ,,I wanna greet her too"! Paloo hurried through her family members and squeezed herself to the front. ,,Oh" she squeaked ,,Alice" she chuckled and stroked a few strands of hair behind her ears. ,,I've always wanted to meet you and oh wow you're so pretty"! Alice blinked at the hatters younger sister ,,Thank you, uh..". ,,I'm Paloo, Paloma actually" she laughed ,,I'm his younger sister". ,,I know" Alice tilted her lips. This girl was the most bubbly and exuberant one she'd ever met. She didn't even know how to handle her. ,,We definitely need to talk alone soon, I have a lot to ask you and oh, I can show you our house and my room and we can go buy dresses together, and...". ,,Paloo"! her mother hissed and stumped her lightly. ,,Oh...sorry...I was rambling again was I"? the ginger haired snickered. Alice had to hide her laugh. So it ran in the family. Only that the hatters rambling was somewhat special. One by one the whole family introduced themselves to Alice until a trumped call made them turn their heads.

The white queen was back on the throne platform and clapped her hands. The waltz had also stopped by now. ,,May I please ask for your attention for a moment please"? She called as she moved her fingers swiftly. ,,As you might already know, our champion has returned"! Loud applause broke loose. Alice pressed her lips together. It felt good but also overwhelming to get so much praise and attention. ,,Alice came back to Underland and she's planning to stay for a while". Another round of applause. ,,This ball is a celebration for her. Let us all have a wonderful time and say, Welcome back Alice"! With that, she smiled towards Alice.

Cheerful callings mixed with Alice name were dinning through the palace. Tarrant, who recognized Alice uncomfortable face, wrapped his arm around her waist and leaned in to whisper in her ear. ,,Maybe we should go somewhere, where it's more quiet"! A shower of goosebumps ran over her body, as she felt his breath brush against her ear. ,,yeah..." she agreed silently and together they sneaked through the crowd. Away from the turmoil.

Paloo, who had turned her head, caught eye of her brother, just sneaking away with Alice at his hand. ,,Bim"! She whispered ,,Bim...come here quick"! She waved her brother over to her. ,,What"? He looked at her questioning. ,,There, look, they're sneaking off together"! She pointed into the direction, where their brother was disappearing with Alice. ,,And"? He shook his shoulders ,,What did you call me for"? ,,We're going after them"! Paloo decided determined. ,,Are you nuts? We're not doing that"! Bim argued. ,,Why not"? Paloo pouted at her younger brother. ,,Have you ever heard something about privacy"? ,,Oh c'mon, don't be such a spoilsport". ,,I'm just not after to catch them kissing"! Bim declared. Paloo gasped and her eyes went even bigger ,,Exactly". ,,No! I'm not going" Bim shook his head and waved his hands ,,go alone if you want to go so bad". Now Paloo narrowed her eyes at her brother ,,You're scared"! ,,I'm not" he responded. ,,You're a coward". ,,I am not a coward" Bim crossed his arms offended. ,,If you come with me I wont tell Pim that you ate his favorite candy". ,,Urgh you're outrageous" he groaned and Paloo grinned in triumph. ,,Come on, I think I know where they went" Paloo whispered and sneaked forward. Bim right behind her. ,,I promise, If they catch us, I will kill you Paloo". ,,Yeah, yeah" she ignored him. At the staircase she looked around to make sure nobody watched them. ,,I'm not comfortable with this" Bim complained but followed his sister upstairs.

After a while of sneaking around, they finally heard quiet voices talk. ,,There" Paloo waved her brother over to her ,,I knew it, they're at one of the balconies". ,,Can't we just go back and leave them alone"? Bim begged but his sister did not give in. ,,I want to know if they have something going on" she explained. Both sneaked closer until they reached the wall that led around the corner to the balcony where Alice and Tarrant were standing. ,,Shht" Paloo put her finger on her lips to signalize her brother to be silent now.

Alice took a deep breath, as she looked over the balcony. It was the same one, they had stood on six years ago. ,,Weird isn't it? I feel as if it was yesterday. Me standing here, scared to slay the jabberwocky". ,,You thought it was a dream" Tarrant added. ,,Oh yeah" Alice smiled at the memory. ,,And you comforted me. ,,I'm glad I could" he looked at her. ,,Do you know, why a raven's like writing desk"? Alice laughed lightly at his question. ,,You don't even know that yourself". Her smile faded a bit and her expression got serious. ,,Tarrant"? She lifted her eyes to his ,,I am really thankful you were there. I don't think I would have had the strength if you hadn't been with me that night". Tarrant moved closer and wrapped his arm around her shoulder. ,,Everything for you my dear Alice". Closing her eyes, the blonde rested her head against his chest. ,,I really thought I would never see you again Alice" the hatter murmured quietly, as he rested his chin on the top of her head. Suddenly Alice shifted herself free from the embrace to look at him again with pure sadness in her eyes. ,,Hatter..." she aspirated sorrowful ,,I want you to know, that if it wasn't for my mother and my sister, I would have stayed. I did not want to leave you...not three years ago, not six years ago". Tarrant looked at her touched. It made him incredibly happy to know how Alice really felt about her leaving. ,,Why don't you bring them here then"? He asked her. Suddenly tears welled up in Alice eyes ,,Oh Tarrant, I can't...they wouldn't be happy here". ,,How can you be sure"? Tarrant didn't want their conversation to go down hill again, so he decided to drop the topic for now. ,,It's ok" he quickly added, before Alice could respond and wrapped her into a tight hug. ,,You know I would always come back to you" Alice whispered as she laid her head back on his chest. ,,I know" he aspirated back to her. He knew he couldn't hold her, if she wanted to go back to her family but he now knew one thing for sure and it filled him with enough happiness to endure whatever might come his way. Alice would always return to him. All he wanted now, was to stay like that as long as possible, holding his Alice. Suddenly a not so new desire welled up in his chest and he carefully placed his Fingers under Alice chin to lift it a bit. Alice from the sudden action, blushed again but kept her eyes locked on his. Slowley they leaned closer. Alice wasn't able to think straight anymore, somehow all she wanted tondo now was let herself fall into whatever was about to happen. It felt right.

A small sound, coming from the corridors, made them snap out of their trance. Realizing what they were about to do, they stepped a few steps away from each other. Clearly flustered. ,,Did you hear that"? He asked her. ,,Yes" Alice tilted her head a bit, feeling hot and dizzy again. ,,I think we should go back" she said ,,They might wonder where we are". Tarrant watched her for a few seconds with a light pout but then smiled again to make her feel comfortable. ,,Lead the way my dear". He couldn't help but feel a bit sad, that they didn't stay a bit longer on the balcony. Mostly about the missed chance. What was he thinking?

,,You fool, they've heard us" Bim hissed at his sister, who was covering her mouth wide eyed. She'd almost screamed when her older brother had pulled Alice into that tight hug. ,,Did you see that"? Paloo squeaked under her breath ,,They almost...". ,,Quick, they're coming" Bim broke his sister off and pushed her, to make her move. Together they hurried down the corridor as fast as they could. Each one of them hid themselves behind a different corridor road.

,,Paloo"? Tarrant frowned in surprise as he and Alice went around the corner and spotted his sister there. The ginger haired squeaked in shock but quickly recovered. ,,Tarrant"! She called out, trying to act normal ,,Oh I didn't know you where here, I was just uh...looking for Bim...you see, we...". Alice and Tarrant shared confused expressions, while they listened to Paloos hyper nervous speech. ,,Paloo, there you are"! Bim walked out from the corner he had hidden himself at and walked towards his sister as if his act was real. ,,I have found the toilets"! He grinned at her forcefully. ,,Oooh, yeah you did"? Paloo responded gushingly ,,Great! Haha, ok good, uhm, yeah, the toilets, he found them, so...I'm going, uh, have fun, see ya"! Both watched, how Paloo rushed over to Bim and they hurried away. ,,Is your sister always like that"? Alice asked. ,,Sometimes..." The hatter answered but wondered about his sisters behavior himself. Together, Alice and Tarrant walked up to where the white queen was standing. The red queen next to her.

,,Alice, Tarrant" Mirana walked towards them, while she looked as if she'd float across the floor. ,,How are you liking the ball so far"? ,,Its nice" Alice smiled and for a second she and the hatter shared amused gazes. ,,I am glad you enjoy it" Mirana smirked at them. Alice gaze fell on the red queen, who was looking at her. ,,Greetings, Alice" she spoke and the blonde nodded her head. ,,Greetings". Tarrant didn't say anything, his expression was rather stern. No smile on his lips. Alice was surprised to find the red queen in a slightly different appearance than she last saw her. Her hair was now half open in the back. Her make up didn't change much, besides she wore her natural eyebrows now. She also wore a new dress. Altogether, she looked much more friendly than ever. And did her head shrink a bit? Mirana cleared her throat slightly and gave her sister a demanding look. The red queen blinked at her sister, as she understood and turned her attention back to Alice. ,,I wanted to apologize..." she started a bit insecure ,,For what I did in the past...I understand know and...I also know that I can't take the things back that I did...but...if it's not too late...would you forgive me"? She looked at Alice and Tarrant. ,,I forgive you" Alice smiled at the red queen. For a second Iracabeth looked shocked at her. that she actually forgave her but then smiled as well. Tarrant on the other hand didn't. ,,Hatter"? Alice turned back to him but it didn't change anything. ,,I will think about it" he muttered in a very low voice. His eyes were a light yellow. It didn't take Alice long to understand that he was getting angry. ,,Tarrant"! Softly she placed her hand on his arm. At the sound of his name coming from her lips, he instantly shook himself out of his upcoming anger and turned to look at her. ,,I'm fine. Thank you". His eyes went back to his usual green and he smiled at her thankfully. Iracabeth understood that the hatter wouldn't forgive her that easily. After all, she had taken his family away for years.

,,Let's go over to the others" Alice suggested and took Tarrant with her. She gave the queens a excusing glance over the shoulder, while she left the platform. As soon as they reached the bottom, they got greeted by their friends. Happy to finally talk to Alice without getting disturbed. Nobody guessed that the joyful atmosphere was about to change in a few moments.

A tall figure made its way down the corridors. Determined he stomped forward. His steps heavy and strong. Ignoring the gasping and scared servants as he passed them. Coming closer and closer to the ballroom. Without even giving the poor servants the slightest chance to stop him, the black haired man marched to the huge doors and opened them up with a strong pull. Irritated the people that were in the room, turned their heads. Mirana too lifted her head. Her mouth opened up, while her sisters eyes became as big as marbles. The people shifted to the right and the left, letting the mysterious man in dark armor through to the thrones. As soon as he stood near enough, Iracabeth let out a high pitched scream. ,,Stayne"?!

Chapter Text

,,Stayne.." the red queen huffed out, as she stared at the man in front of her and her sister. Shock and Horror in her features. ,,T-this can't be...y-you're dead! I saw it! How can you be alive"? Absolutely unmoved by the red queen's hysterical act of panic, the dark-haired removed his gloves from his hands. An amused smirk shoot across his lips and he snickered. ,, Hold your breath there majesty. I did not arise from the dead. Simply, because I'm not who you assume me to be". The people that were gathered in the room, shared confused expressions, ass well as Mirana and the others. Iracabeth however, still stared at the dark-haired man in front of her. No less confused than the rest around her. Probably even more.
,,Who are you then"? She asked him, sounding croaky. ,,My name is Yarmoir Staye" with a slight movement of his hand, he swiped his bangs over his forehead and revealed two eyes and a face without a scar. Everyone could see, that Yaromir had indeed plenty similarities to Ilosovic but didn't look like him anyway. ,,Ilosovic is, or better was my brother" he explained and again, shocked gasps echoed through the room.
,,What brought you here"? Mirana now asked in her graceful voice. ,,Unfortunately I got the news of my brother being dead. I wondered how it came to pass that he died, so I took some research. Only to find him being an ally of your sister". He tilted his head smiling ironically. Iracabeth flinched on her seat. ,,Her reputation in Underland is...well, not the best I would say" his voice lowered down. ,,My sister has changed" Mirana insisted ,,She's truly sorry for all she's done, so please don't condemn her". ,,Mirana, stop it" her sister snapped at her but went quiet instantly again. Her eyes lowered down and her expression fell into sadness. ,,He's right. There is no excuse for what I did and there never will be one. I alone have to take responsibility for my crimes and not you Mirana. Not you, nor anyone here". The red queen swallowed ,,I deserve this...". ,,No...Racie" Mirana turned to her sister, about to reach her hand out to her but stopped in the process.
,,I know my brother was a bit...err...wayward" Yaromir rose his voice again ,,But did he really deserve to die"? ,,I did not kill him"! Was the instant response of the red queen and she stood. ,,Oh really"? Yaromir glared at her ,,How come"? Iracabeth seemed to think for a moment, but the she turned her face away from him. ,,I...I loved him". For that statement, she caught herself a snort and a unbelieving laughter. Iracabeth began to feel more uncomfortable than she had in a long way. She knew he didn't trust her. Nobody her sister and maybe now Alice did. ,,So you loved my brother"? Yaromir started pacing a little ,,Like you loved the king? I doubt it, because, if I heard it correctly, you were ready to chop his head off just like you did to all the others because he tried to seduce her"! He pointed at Alice who widened her eyes.

Tarrants face fell and he turned to face Alice in shock. ,,Alice"? He asked her ,,What..."? ,,Please" Alice interrupted him before he could finish his sentence ,,Not here, I will explain everything to you later. I promise"! Tarrant gulped but nodded eventually. Trying to keep his anger down he turned a bit away.
Iracabeths mouth stood open ,,Wha...b-but he told me"? Yaromir sighed ,,Yes, probably to save his neck from the ax". The red queen swallowed. A big lump forming in her throat, as tears gleamed in her eyes. She should have known it but it still hurt. ,,So this makes a good motive to kill him anyway am I right"? He turned to face her again. ,,I told you I did not kill him" Iracabeth insisted. ,,Who killed him then"? Yaromir opened his arms. ,,Well..." the red queen stared, while her expression fell into a mixture of pain and horror. She clearly dreaded that memory. ,,After we came to the outlands, I build myself a new castle. We both wanted to get off our chains, so we got into a fight. He wanted to kill me, so I was upset about it. I told him to tear the chains apart with a sword. He did but then...I turned away from him because I didn't want to look at him and then he tried to stab me again". Mirana gave it a shocked gasp. ,,I tried to defend myself. I tried to get away from him". The red queen's eyes starred to the ground while she talked and Mirana for once saw to lies in them. Her sister was clearly shaken up by recalling these memories. ,,At some point, I managed to turn the sword around. I wanted to push it away, sideways, but the pressure was to big, we stumbled and the sword went through his chest". Yaromir starred at the red queen as she spoke. ,,He stumbled backward on my new throne and...and died...". There was silence in the room. Nobody dared to say something.

,,So you killed him" Yaromir aspirated. ,,No" Iracabeth cried ,,It was an accident"! ,,As if I would believe you" he hissed at her ,,If anyone here besides your sister would" he turned around and opened his arms again. ,,Nobody here...believes you". Right at that moment, Alice felt anger grow in her chest. Yes, the red queen deserved punishment for her wrongdoing but she was about to change and she deserved a chance. Everybody deserved a second chance. She actually felt sorry for the red queen now. ,,Stop it"! She suddenly rose her voice, making the heads turn to her. The blonde stopped for a moment but then continued to speak ,,I know and everybody here knows, that she's been bad and unfair and horrible, but she actually wants to change. Why is that so hard to believe? Everybody deserves a second chance"! Alice looked around ,,Just because someone had a bad past doesn't mean that person has to stick to it forever! Isn't the good supposed to be the stronger power? So why then stick to the evil? You all wanted to have equity and now that she's wanting to change you don't want to let her? What's the fairness there"?
Tarrant had his eyes fixed on Alice. One part of him was deeply moved by her words and he knew she was right but the other part, the part that remembered his past and the pain, was getting furious. He still hadn't forgiven the red queen yet and Alice protecting her made his anger boil in his veins.

Yaromir closed his mouth in defeat. A moment of silence passed until he rose his eyes back to the queens. ,,I might take my time to see how serious you are about it" he declared ,,For now, my judgment over you will have to wait". Iracabeth sat back down on her throne, while her sister smiled at her encouraging. ,,I excuse myself for disturbing this ball" he bowed ,,I will leave now. We'll see each other again" and with that, he straightened himself, turned and left.

As soon as he was gone, the crowd broke out in wild discussions. Mirana let out a relieved sigh and then turned to her sister. ,,Racie...you never told me..." her voice was comforting and emotional. ,,Why..." Iracabeth didn't look at her ,,Why should I? I didn't want to think about it anymore...I didn't even think you would take be back home ever". ,,Of course I would have" Mirana declared ,,You're my sister and I love you. What I did back then was necessary. I had no choice". ,,I know" Iracabeth blinked ,,I would have locked myself away ass well back then". Both sisters chuckled silently.

During that time, Alice turned around to face Tarrant, but he was gone. ,,Hatter"? She called in confusion. ,,Where did he go"? She asked her friends. ,,He just left"! Mc Twisp pointed to the huge doors where the hatter was walking to. ,,This is my fault" Alice hissed under her breath ,,Stay here, I'm going to fix this"! And with that she hurried after the hatter. ,,Alice wait"! Mallymkun called after her but couldn't stop her.
Alice jogged through the room, squeezed herself through the people with plenty ,,Excuse me"s and finally reached the doors that were about to close. ,,Hatter"! She called after him but he was already through the doors. Groaning Alice opened the heavy doors and pushed herself through. ,,Hatter wait"! She called again, desperately as she ran to catch up to him. ,,Please let me explain it to you". Tarrant stopped abruptly and turned. Alice closed her mouth in shock, as she found his eyes being orange and his skin color around his eyes dark. ,,I've trusted you"! He barked at her and she flinched. ,,I've thought we could talk about everything"! ,,And we can"! Alice responded. ,,I see you don't trust me enough to tell me somebody harassed you" Tarrant hissed. ,,I trust you" Alice assured ,,I wanted to tell you. I simply forgot about it. I had other things in my mind at that time"! ,,What about now"? Tarrant furrowed his brows ,,You had enough time to tell me". ,,I am sorry that I just didn't think about bad things that happened in the past". ,,Speaking of bad things" the hatter countered ,,How come you are on the ropey big heads side now"? Alice blinked ,,Because she's sorry! She wants to change" Alice now got louder herself ,,It's not fair to not give her a second chance. Everybody deserves that"! Tarrants range had already blinded his senses so his brain didn't catch the truth that Alice spoke. ,,She'd destroyed my home! Burned it to bits and pieces. Everything fell into ash. Took ma family from me and left me thinking they were dead! Do you know how that feels"?! Alice gulped, tears already burning in her eyes. Alice remembered how mad Tarrant could get, but the last time was different. He wasn't himself back then. This time he wasn't depressed. Just terribly in range and it hurt Alice to see him like that. It tore her heart. It hurt her to fight with him.

,,I thought so.." Tarrant uttered as he got no response from the blonde and turned. ,,Tarrant"! Alice yelled at him ,,Don't you walk away on me"! On that, he turned again ,,I shouldn't walk away on you"? He stepped closer to her ,,Like you did on me twice? Leaving

me alone"? ,,I told you why I had to leave. And I told you how I felt about it" Alice blinked, tears running down her cheeks. ,,You will leave me again. Why should I trust you now"? the hatter grunted. His words cut her like knives. She knew he didn't mean what he was saying but it still hurt. Again he turned to leave. ,,Tarrant stop"! she cried as she tried to run after him ,,This is not fair"! ,,No, it's not"! he agreed bitter without turning. ,,Enough of that"! Alice finally got a hold of his sleeve and grabbed it tightly. She had to make him snap out of his anger. ,,Look at me"! She yelled at him and he turned. As his gaze fell upon her tear-streaked face he finally snapped out of his range and his eyes widened in shock. The fog that had clouded his mind lifted and his eyes went back to their normal green. ,,Alice..."? He muttered in an insecure lisp. Alice swallowed again, still holding his hand. ,,I...I'm.." he stuttered ,,What have I done"? ,,It's ok.." Alice assured but it didn't help. ,,You didn't say anything to bad to me" she explained. ,,I am so sorry" he freed himself from her touch and stepped a bit away from her ,,I am so sorry Alice..." utterly shaken up, he turned once more and left Alice standing alone in the corridor.

Alice stood frozen as she watched him leave. Still teary eyed. Behind her stood all her friends, looking awfully emotional and swept up in the moment. ,,Wheew" the march hare lowered his ears. ,,Oh dear" Mallymkun aspirated and rose her paw to her mouth. Mirana for once, didn't say anything. She just looked at the blonde, feeling deeply sorry. Suddenly Alice turned around. As she saw her friends, she looked at them for a few seconds but then hurried away as well. Out of the palace.

,,Poor Alice" Mc Twisp murmured. ,,Poor Hatter" Mallymkun added. ,,They never argued that bad" Mc Twisps nose twitched. ,,I didn't think they would face the past issue like that" the white mouse stated. ,,We need to do something" Mc Twisp declared. ,,I will go and talk to the hatter"! Mallymkun decided. ,,And I will talk to Alice" Mirana sighed. ,,And we"? The twins asked. ,,You go back into the throne room and help clear up the case". ,,I think I'll accompany these two" Chessur suggested. ,,What about me eh"? Thackery rose his hand up. ,,Tha hatter is ma friend as well ya know" he pointed at Mallymkun. ,,Yes I know" she shook her head ,,But this isn't just a small talk Thackery! He's hurt and he just had a fight with Alice. We all know how they feel about each other and unless they don't get it right we need to take action and be careful"! Mirana clapped her hands. ,,Very wise words Mallymkun"! ,,Thank you" the dormouse smiled. ,,So it's set then"? The white queen looked around. Everybody nodded and then left into different directions.

During that time, the red queen tried to calm the confused guest and told them that the ball is finished for tonight. Bim and Paloo had just come back to the ballroom, only to find everyone leaving. Dumbfounded and irritated they walked to their parents. They had lost their way and had to walk all through the castle to come back at least. Not even the Hightopps had a clue what happened besides the brother of the knave of hearts making an appearance. And just then, they realized Tarrant was gone and so Alice and their friends.

~Tarrant~

Lonely and feeling miserable, Tarrant sat under one of Miranas trees deep in her Gardens. His head circled all around Alice teary face and how he had yelled at her. He felt so angry with himself for letting his anger towards the red queen get to him so much, that he lost himself that much, that he even yelled at Alice. His Alice. And he never wanted to go mad in front of her ever again. He had never made her cry before and this fact alone drove him insane. He'd hurt her. He'd hurt her feelings and he'd probably scared her. Alice was a strong and independent woman but he just couldn't help but think that way.
So he sat there, under that huge oak tree, scolding himself and drowning in guilt and shame. How could he apologize for that? What if she thought different of him now? What if he'd scared her off for good now? They'd gotten so close and now he had to ruin it again.
His orbs had lost their gleam and now seemed dull and almost grayish green. Saddened he starred at the ground, plucked out a clum and ripped it in his hands. ,,Hatter"! That's when he heard a voice call his name. Hopefully, he stretched his head to see if it was Alice. As he spotted Mallymkun, he dropped his shoulders discouraged and laid back on the oak. ,,Hatter, finally, I've searched you everywhere" the white dormouse huffed as she came to halt. ,,Hello Mally.." he greeted her, his voice so sad it broke her heart. ,,So you've witnessed our argument I assume" his eyes lifted to face her. Mallymkun nodded and hopped onto his right thigh. ,,Hatter, everybody argues sometimes, you'll see. You'll apologize and it will be fine again". ,,What if I go mad again? What if I hurt her Mally"? Tarrant asked her panicking. ,,You would never harm her Tarrant" Mallymkun assured him ,,We all know that, and you know that too". He lowered his gaze ,,I hope so Mally...I hope so. What am I supposed to do now"? ,,Apologize of course" Mallymkun gestured with her little hand. ,,And what if she won't forgive me"? He blurted. ,,Don't be silly" Mallymkun furrowed her brows ,,You don't believe that yourself! She's not like that". ,,Right...Alice is not like that" he repeated after her. ,,Well then get up and do something, go to her, excuse yourself and fix things"! The dormouse roused him. ,,Ye, I'm going, I'm going" Tarrant jumped to his feet and dusted himself down. He gave his little friend a thankful smile before he turned. ,,Thank you Mally"! ,,You're welcome" she blinked ,,And now hurry"!
With that, the hatter made his way back to search for Alice. He couldn't wait to find her and tell her how sorry he was.

~Alice ~

Alice had settled herself at the white bench on the balcony with the view to the waterfalls. She remembered that place. It had been the place she ran off to, as she got scared of the Jabberwocky and the pressure got to high. She had been crying back then as well. But this time, she was actually crying because of a man. Men never made her cry. The only time she cried for a man, was at her fathers funeral.
Alice pushed those memories away. ,,Tears again"? A low voice reached her ears and she turned to find Absolem fluttering next to her. ,,Absolem" the blonde aspirated ,,There you are! I wondered where you went. Funny coincidence we meet here again huh"? ,,I suppose the reason that made you cry is certainly not funny" the wise butterfly stated. ,,No" Alice agreed sadly ,,The hatter got mad...and it's my fault..". Absolem listened to her but turned before he could say something about it. ,,I would like to stay and talk but there is someone wanting to talk to you" he declared instead and flew off. Hopefully Alice rose from her sitting position, but as she recognized Mirana, she sat back down in disappointment. For a moment she had hoped it would be the hatter.
,,Alice.." the white queen walked up to her. Her face was serious and concerned at the same time. ,,I thought I would find you here". Alice looked at her, not smiling. ,,I am so sorry Alice" Mirana began ,,Do you want to talk to me about it"? Alice turned to face the queen ,,The hatter got upset and it was all my fault" Alice sniffed. ,,Oh Alice dear" Mirana stroked her cheek ,,No, no, it wasn't. What Stayne did back then wasn't you fault. And that the hatter got upset because of my sister wasn't your fault either. The past is a very painful part for him". Alice lowered her gaze ,,I know...he'd told me what had happened at the Horovendoush day. And I've seen it, back then when I had the Chronosphere. I forgot to tell him about the Stayne issue. I had enough worries at that time and I didn't want to upset him even further. But I guess it was the cherry on top, me defending your sister. I should have been more careful from the start". Mirana gave her an understanding look. ,,Alice, don't blame yourself! Tarrant would have become upset anyway. If I had been protecting my sister like you did or anyone of us". ,,I need to talk to him" Alice sniffed once more, wiped her teas and rose from the bench. ,,I need to tell him I am sorry"! Mirana followed Alice with a smile ,,Go my dear Alice, he might be on his way to you". Alice returned the smile, turned and hurried away to find the hatter.

 

Tarrant hurried through the gardens, turning left, right. His heart was hammering in his chest. His mind focused on finding Alice. At the same time, Alice came from the other direction, running, searching for him. Eventually, they both spotted each other and hurried their steps until they stood inches close.
,,Alice" ,,Hatter"! They both called at the same time, breathless. ,,I've searched for you"! He said. ,,So have I". Both smiled at each other. ,,I've wanted to talk to you"! And again their words synchronized. Alice let out a chuckle ,,You go first". ,,No, no, you go first, you're the lady. Ladys first"! The hatter demanded and Alice laughed. ,,Alright". The blonde took a deep breath. ,,I wanted to apologize...That I didn't tell you earlier...about what had happened. I wasn't thinking of that at that time. I was scared. Of the Jabberwocky...of the fight...of losing you...". Tarrants eyes widened at her words. ,,I didn't want to leave without you...I was scared remember"? Tarrant nodded quietly. ,,And when I came back the second time...all I was thinking of, was to save you. And now..that I'm back a fourth time, I didn't even think about all the bad things that happened. Simply because I was...happy" She looked at him ,,But please, believe me, I would have told you...I would tell you anything". Tarrant smiled again.

,,I know" he whispered. ,,I wanted to apologize as well" his voice lowered down. ,,I am sorry for going mad...I...it wasn't right to let my anger out on you...I never wanted to do that...I've lost it...and I'm so sorry...so terribly sorry, I made you cry and I've hurt you and I scared you...and I really...". ,,Hatter"! Alice stopped his rambling. ,,You did not scare me neither did you hurt me. The only thing that hurt me was seeing you hurt. I understand your anger and your pain and you have all the rights to be angry and sad. Look, I didn't protect the red queen to hurt you or anger you Tarrant, it was the right thing to do. Everybody deserves love, don't you think"? Tarrant gave her a warm smile ,,You're absolutely right Alice. You've been right about it all. I'm sorry I didn't tell you that. Maybe I'll be able to forgive her someday". Alice returned his smile. ,,So, we're good"? ,,Have we not been"? He joked as he pretended to be confused. ,,I don't remember" Alice took one step closer and wrapped her arms around him to hug him. For a second, Tarrant froze but returned her gesture soon enough and pulled her even tighter.

A thought shot through Tarrant's mind and he opened his eyes. ,,Alice"? He asked her. ,,Hmn"? She lifted her head, still smiling. ,,Do you...uhm, do you want to...I would be glad if you would, I mean only if you want to...spent the day with me tomorrow"? Alice looked at him, her face frozen. ,,Oh, I'm sorry" he blurted ,,It's ok I shouldn't have...". ,,No" she stopped him ,,I...I was just...I would love to"! Tarrants face lit up instantly again and he took her hands ,,Wonderful"! At the sudden gesture, Alice cheeks turned into a bright pink and she flinched a bit. ,,Yeah...I'm happy too..." but she didn't pull her hands away this time. As Tarrant realized he still held her hands, he let them go. Flustered himself. Clearing his throat he straightened himself. It was already getting dark. ,,Shall I accompany you to your room"? Alice nodded and smiled at him. ,,That's very kind of you". Smiling, he led her his arm and she tucked hers under his. Together the walked back into the castle.

Mirana and the others stood at her big balcony, watching. ,,Aww" Mallymkun clapped her hands ,,isn't that wonderful"? Mirana smiled at the dormouse ,,We did our job". ,,We want to accompany Alice too" the tweedles said. ,,You stay where you are"! The dormouse glared at them ,,Leave them alone for once. We're not doing that again". Bayard lowered his tail while Mc Twisp wiped over his face in shame. ,,That was bad...". ,,They pushed me"! Thackery pointed at the twins. Mirana looked at them frowning. ,,At least they made up" Chessure purred with his big grin ,,It's about time". ,,What's about time"? The tweedles asked, looking confused. ,,You'll see" Mirana assured them with a promising smile while Chessur just kept on grinning.

Chapter Text

That night, Alice had been sleeping better than she had in months. The memories of the last night made the young blonde smile so wide, that when she looked at herself in the mirror, she had to think of the Cheshire cat instantly. After she and the hatter had made up, he had brought her back to her room. They had said good night and goodbye and separated. Something was so new and different and yet it felt so familiar and right. Alice, again, was excited and she didn't know why. It was just a normal day she would spend with the hatter. Alone. Nervously the blonde walked up to the wardrobe and picked up the dress she decided to wear. Even though white was the main color of Miranas dresses, she luckily had a few more dresses in different colors. The white queen knew Alice favorite color was blue, so she'd put all the dresses into the young blondes wardrobe that were either blue or different colored. This time, Alice choose a long lace dress with short sleeves and a light blue bow around the waist. The color of the dress was a very faded yellow. So bright in fact, it almost seemed white again. Twirling her bangs, she pinned them away from her face and let the rest of her curls fall loose. Taking a deep shaky breath, the blonde looked at herself in the mirror again. Turning a few times and checking if everything sat right. Alice didn't quite know where the hatter was about to take her, but since it was a bright, warm day of spring, she got the idea to take a pick nick basket along. Earlier this morning, she had been in the kitchen to ask the cooks to pack some food for two. Her friends seemed awfully mysterious to her. They weren't good at acting, so Alice didn't take a second guess to understand that they tried to act as if the didn't know anything. It didn't bother her though. It was cute of them, so she thought. And even though Alice didn't know what to expect, she tried her best to act normal herself. It had become remarkably difficult to not get nervous. With a last glance to her reflection, she breathed in, lifted her head, dusted herself off and walked out of her room. It'll be fine, she told herself. It was just the hatter after all. Her hatter. Nothing to be scared of.

Meanwhile, Tarrant sat at the balcony of the room Mirana had given him. It was the same room he always got when he stayed over at Mamoreal. The balcony wasn't as big as all the others, but big enough to fit a little table and a few chairs. He, after all, started his day always with a good cup of tea. Sipping at the warm liquid, he let his mind wander. He already knew, where he wanted to take Alice. His stomach felt funny at the thought to spend the day with her. Alone. He never got to spent a day with Alice all alone and now that he got the chance it filled him with happiness. A smile spread across his lips, as he remembered her face when she agreed to it. Even though he understood to hide his emotions when he was on his own. ,,Is this your way of getting ready"? A familiar, lazy voice suddenly purred into his ear. A bit startled at the unexpected sound he flinched. ,,Good morning to you too fur-ball" Tarrant then muttered as he continued to sip his tea, acting unimpressed. ,,Well, congratulations for you first date then, I guess" the teal striped tom continued, grinning, as he floated in front of the hatter. Hearing that, Tarrant spit out the tea he just sipped in. Chessur, amused, turned upside down, blinking. ,,Excuse me"? Tarrant turned his head to the floating cat ,,My what"? Chessur grinned even wider ,,Your date. With. Alice" he repeated, teasing his friend even more. Tarrant furrowed his brows ,,It's not a date". ,,What else is it then"? Chessur flicked his tail ,,You're spending the day with her alone. You call that a date". Tarrant averted his gaze from the cheshire cat and looked at the spilled drops of tea ,,Now, look what you did, you spilled my tea". ,,I certainly did" Chessur purred amused. As Tarrant turned his head, fluttered, the teal striped tom started chuckling. Knowing his friend got the pun. ,,You..."! Frustated, Tarrant slashed his hand to grab his friend but he dissolved before he could even touch his fur. Grinning mischievously, Chessur appeared at the other side of the balcony again. ,,We're just going on a trip together, amicably you see"? Tarrant tried to sound convincing as he grinned back at Chessur. The teal striped cat lowered his grin a bit as he flew back closer to his childhood friend, now a bit more serious. ,,Why are you so out to suppress your own feelings Tarrant"? He asked and the hatter lowered his gaze. Was he? Was he suppressing his feelings? And if he was, why was he? Tarrant shook his head to get rid of his thoughts. ,,I don't know Chess.." he then answered but wasn't satisfied with it. ,,Look Tarrant, I've known you since I was a little kitten. We've been friends for more than twenty eight years. I ought to know you good enough by now" Chessur explained. ,,If you still don't want to talk to me about it, that's fine but let me at least give you a good advice. As a friend". Tarrant lifted his gaze back to Chessur. ,,I'm scared Chess, what if she's not feeling the way I do". Chessur blinked. Surprised that Tarrant decided to tell him after all. ,,Well don't worry about that" he crossed his arms ,,You'll find that out". ,,You mentioned an advice"? Tarrant reminded the tom. ,,Yes. Just be yourself. Don't act insincere. Tell her what you feel". ,,Chessur"! Tarrant frowned ,,Since when do you know so much about that kind of things". ,,I got my sources" the striped cat countered ,,Anyhow, you should be going. It won't make a good picture, if you'd let her wait". ,,Ooup, you're right"! Tarrant placed his cup back on the table, stood up and hurried inside. Quickly he looked at his pocket watch. Twenty minutes left, he found. ,,Need to hurry now"! he muttered to himself. ,,Good luck"! Chessur purred, before he vanished to leave the hatter alone.

Now it was the hatters turn to decide what to wear. He only had his white shirt and pair of dark brown pants on. Opening the wardrobe, he looked at some of his suits he brought along yesterday. There was his brown one. ,,No" Tarrant murmured to the coat, as if it could understand ,,Wear you way to often" he told the coat and went to the next. His blue one. ,,Neat, but I wore you yesterday, so it's a no". He continued to take out a silky green one. For a moment he paused, as memories hit him. ,,Oh.." he made ,,Haven't worn you in ages". It was the coat he'd worn at Iracabeths coronation. ,,Bad memories though, bad memories, so, no". When he spotted a silky purple one, his face fell and he didn't even take it out. ,,Certainly not"! He grumbled. It was the suit he wore at the horovendoush day. Now that he knew, that Alice knew about that day, he wouldn't wear it today. Sighing, he dropped his shoulders. 15 minutes left. ,,Argh" he yelped and looked through his coats even faster. Finally he found a dark russet colored one and a light beige west coat. ,,That's the one"!Tarrant beamed proudly. ,,Oh, bow tie, bow ties" he continued to ramble as he twirled around and rummaged in one of his suitcases. Tarrant in fact, had so much bow ties and ribbons, you could cover a king size bed with them. Single colored ones, spotted ones, green ones with a pattern, red ones with a pattern, dots, stripes, whorls, flowers, feathers. Basically all kinds of colors and patterns you could imagine. Finally he decided to pick up a dark red one with a small colorful but subtle pattern. Looking into the mirror, he examined his appearance. It was definitely more subtle than usual but still like him. The thread bandolier was missing and the bundle of ribbons as well. Tarrant also put down his thimbles and the pincushion ring. He wasn't working today at all, so he wouldn't need them. Besides, he didn't want them to bother Alice if she would hold his hand. Wait. Hold that thought. Tarrant shook his head. Why was he even assuming that? He just did without even thinking. ,,Oh, the time"! Hastening he put on his hat and scudded outside. In front of the palace he stopped and looked around. His heart was hammering in his chest. Nervously he gave his watch another glance. Ten before eleven am. He was punctual, after all. A bit early even. Alice wasn't there. Letting out a relived sigh, he straightened himself. Waiting was even worse than he'd imagined. He could see Chessurs grinning face in his inner eyes and it didn't help one bit. What if Alice changed her mind and didn't want to spent the day with him? What if he'd mess up? Thoughts of panic started to cloud his mind and he started to feel uneasy.

,,Hatter"! The sound of that melodious voice that he used to love so much, shook him out of his panicking thoughts and he turned. His mouth opened a bit in awe at the sight of the beautiful creature that was walking up to him. Smiling wide, eyes gleaming, blond curls bouncing with each step. ,,Alice"! he murmured quickly and almost surprised as she suddenly arrived in front of him. The blonde girl still grinned at him but then she closed her lips into a wide smile. ,,Good Morning"! she aspirated happily. ,,Good morning"! he answered, still a bit taken of from the sight of Alice. ,,What"? Alice snickered after a while ,,Are you alright"? ,,Yes, yes I'm fine" he snapped out of his trance and smiled at her ,,You just look very pretty". Blushing lightly Alice pressed her lips together. She too had examined her friend in front of her. ,,You're looking handsome as well...uh" the blushing intensified as she realized her words. ,,Thank you" he responded, feeling the tingle return to his stomach. His eyes fell on the basket Alice was carrying. ,,What's the basket for"? He asked her to loose the tension. Alice turned to look at it and then back to the hatter. ,,Oh, the basket, right. I though if we're taking a trip somewhere, we could pick nick somewhere and eat. I mean, if we're on the go all day long, we won't be able to eat at the palace so I asked the cooks to make some foods for us". Tarrant grinned at her ,,Very thoughtful! Why didn't I get that idea"? He tilted his head as he spoke more to himself. Alice laughed lightly ,,It's just me being organized sometimes. So, where are we going"? She asked him curiously. ,,That, my dear Alice, is a surprise" he assured her. ,,Oh is it now? Too bad, I'm a curious person" she chuckled. ,,I could tell you" Tarrant continued to grin at her ,,But if I did, it would ruin the surprise". ,,I got that" the blonde smiled ,,don't tell me then". Together the walked away from the palace, through the blooming cherry blossom trees out into a wide field. ,,Tarrant"? Alice asked after a while of walking ,,Are these trees always blooming"? Tarrant turned his head to look at Alice. He still felt overwhelmed joyful at the fact, that she was calling him by his actual name. ,,They bloom longer than regular cherry blossom trees" he explained ,,They are a special kind. Mirana lets her maiden talk to them so they bloom more beautifully". ,,I've heard that if you talk to plants, they grow better" Alice replied ,,It's so different here. There are so many things I don't know about Underland". ,,I can tell you as much about it as you want" Tarrant beamed. ,,Oh that would be wonderful" Alice cheered. ,,Have you traveled before"? She started to ask him. Tarrant thought for a moment ,,Not really. When I was a child, we didn't go far away from our home town. Though we did some trips to the ocean now and then". ,,You've got an ocean here"? Alice eyes widened. ,,Why yes of course" Tarrant looked at her ,,You might have seen it even". Alice remembered. ,,Yeah, you're right. Only didn't I pay attention to it back then". ,,We can go there some day if you'd like" he suggested. ,,Please"! Alice beamed ,,I love the sea. I've traveled all around the world back at home. I used to be a captain". Tarrants eyes went big at the new information. ,,This is incredible"! Alice smiled ,,Thank you, but after all those years being apart from you guys, even sailing became dull and lonely for me". ,,I am sorry you had to go through all that Alice" he stopped and reached for her hands. ,,No" Alice responded ,,You don't have to be sorry. I was stupid to not come back earlier. I really thought that I wasn't able to come back. It was...horrible...a nightmare" she lowered her gaze. Alice blinked in surprise, as she suddenly felt to strong arms wrap around her. ,,I know how you must have been feeling" he whispered, his voice lower than a few moments ago. ,,It was as terrible for as well". ,,I'm sorry" she mumbled into his chest. It felt wonderful to be in his arms. Alice felt save. Closing her eyes, she savored his warmth and soaked in his sent. Why didn't she realize before how good it felt to be hugged by him? It made her forget about everything. It was soothing and calming and it gave her the feeling like nothing could harm her.

At that moment, they didn't really have to talk much more. It was good to just comfort each other. Alice knew, that there must have been much more darker things, that the hatter must have gone through while she wasn't there but she wouldn't ask him now. All she wanted, was to enjoy the day. There was way enough sad things from the past. Finally they separated again. ,,Thank you" she smiled up to him and he returned it. ,,Come" he offered her his arm, and she took it. As they walked, Alice enjoyed the view. As the sun climbed higher, it got warmer as well. Soon they found themselves in a huge meadow with flowers everywhere. Some huge trees stood tall here and there and offered shadowy places. ,,Let's rest here for a while" Alice suggested and Tarrant nodded. ,,Let's settle under that tree there"! He pointed to an huge maple tree. ,,Let me help you" Tarrant hurried at Alice side and helped her unfold the large blanket. ,,I haven't done that in years" she chuckled. ,,A trip"? He asked her. ,,No, a pick nick" Alice smiled ,,Let's see what we've got here". Carefully the blonde took out some sandwiches some fruits, cookies, some petite fours, water and some orange juice. ,,Wow, did you tell them to pack so much"? Tarrant marveled at the food. ,,I uh, I just told them to pack some food for two. Typical Mirana, better enough than to little" Alice shrugged her shoulders. ,, Bon appetit then". ,,Bon appe what"? Tarrant lisped and Alice bursted out into laughter. ,,Bon appetit! It is french and means, good appetite" Alice explained. ,,Oh, thank you" he grinned at her. ,,You're welcome" she chuckled and reached for one of the petite fours. ,,How cute" she raved and put it up to her mouth. Right when she wanted to take a bite, she stopped. ,,Wait.." she eyed the cake suspiciously. Confused, Tarrant as well stopped himself from biting into an apple and turned his head to the blonde. ,,What's wrong Alice"? He asked her while she frowned at the pastry ,,This won't make me grow will it"? Tarrant suddenly grunted and lifted his hand to his mouth to hide his laughter. ,,What"? Alice started to laugh along ,,That's not funny"! On that, Tarrant lost it and started laughing. Not even a second later, Alice started joining him. ,,I'm serious"! But it didn't help. Both couldn't stop laughing. After a while, they slowed their laughter and wiped their tears away. ,,Oh dear" Alice sighed, still chuckling. ,,I really meant it" she repeated as she looked at him. ,,I know you did" he snickered. ,,So what now"? She asked. ,,Maybe you should just try it and we'll see". ,,Oh, don't be silly" she pushed his arm jokingly. ,,I can't help it" he chuckled. ,,You try it for me"! she held the cake to his lips. ,,It won't affect me"! he stated ,,You try"! ,,No"! Alice yelped laughing as she tried to push his hands away while holing wrists. ,,Here comes your first bite"! he teased. ,,No, stop it"! Alice kept on pushing even though he was clearly stronger. ,,Eat it yourself"! ,,Open up"! He lifted the cake closer to her mouth while both wrangled their arms jokingly. ,,Hatter stop"! He didn't. ,,Tarrant! I warn you" and he pushed the cake further. Alice turned her head and it smashed against her cheek. ,,Oh, just you wait.."! She gasped and pushed back. Losing her balance in the process, her weight titled forward. Tarrant as well lost his balance and both fell backwards on the ground. Alice on top of him. ,,Ough" Alice huffed out in surprise as she hit the hatters chest. For the moment, both looked at each other in shock and surprise. Inches close. Their noses almost touching. Blood rushing up her head, Alice scuttled from the hatter and brought some space between them. Both cleared their throats. ,,Uhm.." Alice stoked her curls to get rid of her nervousness. Her heart was pounding up to her neck and her cheeks and ears felt hot. ,,It's no upelkuchen" Tarrant finally admitted, a small smile still on his lips as he placed the cake on one of the plates. ,,Sorry for the teasing" he apologized ,,I just had to". Alice smirked at him. ,,It's fine. It was funny". Tarrant widened his smile into an open one. ,,Oh.." he stopped, as he realized the icing on Alice cheek. ,,Hold on". Quickly he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and reached out to wipe the sugar away. Still blushed, Alice let him. ,,You ok"? He asked her, as he found her cheeks red. ,,What? Uh yes" Alice stuttered ,,I'm just a bit heated up from the laughing...". And she was, but that wasn't the main reason she was blushing so bad. ,,It's save to eat then"? She rose an eyebrow. ,,Yes" he grinned. ,,How're you sure"? She asked. ,,Miranas maiden wouldn't put it along regular food. It's a special treat with a special effect. You don't use upelkuchen for regular events" he explained, still amused. ,,You really got me on that" Alice chuckled ,,I absolutely fell for it". ,,That's why I did it" he wiggled his eyebrows, grinning. ,,Bufoon" Alice chuckled as he pushed his arm again. Both started to eat. After they finished, Tarrant leaned his back on the tree, while Alice laid herself down on the blanket. Taking a deep breath Alice looked up into the large branches and the many young, light green leaves. A sudden buzzing noise made her look up. It was that little dragon looking insect. ,,Oh"! she made and lifted herself up to take a quick look on the animal before it flew away. ,,Tarrant look, quick"! Hastily the hatter turned his head to the blonde. ,,Look"! Alice pointed to the little creature. ,,What is that"? ,,That"? Tarrant turned his attention to the dragon looking insect and held his hand out so it could land on his palm. ,,It's a Snap-Dragonfly" he explained ,,Here"! carefully he turned and held his hand out to Alice, so she could examine the Dragonfly. ,,Wow" she raved ,,Hey little buddy". Tarrant smiled. He adored how fascinated Alice was with everything in Underland. ,,Can I hold it"? She asked. ,,You can try, if it won't fly off". Carefully he tilted his hand a bit, so the Dragonfly could crawl on Alice Hand. ,,Amazing"! she aspirated ,,I've seen one six years ago, when I entered Underland. There was also another one that looked like a rocking horse. It was fighting with a Dragonfly". ,,They're, in fact, called rocking-horseflys" Tarrant explained. ,,Makes sense" Alice replied and the dragonfly flew off. ,,Are there more like these"? She asked. ,,Way more" the hatter grinned. ,,Let's continue. The place I want to take you isn't far away anymore" Tarrant said as he stood and helped Alice put the plates and the rest of the food back into the basket.

They were walking a while until Alice rose her voice again. She remembered all the things she wanted to tell the hatter. Now, that she finally got enough time to do so. ,,Hatter.." she called softly ,,I never told you why I had to go back home back then". A bit taken off guard, Tarrant looked at her ,,No you didn't. But it was because of your family wasn't it"? Alice tilted her lips. ,,Mostly but there were other things. Remember when I told you, that I needed to give some answers"? He nodded. ,,See, I was set to marry a lord. I didn't knew about it and I certainly didn't wanted to". ,,You were about to marry"? Tarrant blurted out, his face shocked. ,,No"! Alice yelped ,,They wanted me to but I didn't. Besides, he was awful. Not to mention his mother. His father was a good friend of mine and as my father passed, his company went to Hamish's father". ,,Who's Hamish"? Tarrant asked her bewildered, a hint of jealousy in his tone. ,,The lord I was set to marry" Alice explained. ,,What a weird name" Tarrant frowned. He didn't like that person just by the fact that he wanted to marry his Alice. ,,Anyway" Alice continued ,,The day, Mc Twisp came to take me back, was the day, Hamish asked me to marry him. It was a huge celebration party. I needed to return to tell him no". Tarrant's eyes gleamed as he listened. ,,I also had to tell my mother and my sister, that I alone am to decide what to do with my life. I couldn't have left without a word. Do you understand that"? Tarrant nodded. ,,I do" he smiled at her ,,I also understood back then but I was sad you know". ,,Now you know why I had to go back" Alice sighed. ,,And I am thankful, you told me after all" he replied. They continued to walk until huge mountains with waterfalls running down came to sight. Alice mouth dropped open at the view. ,,Tarrant"! She gasped ,,Are these the waterfalls you see from Miranas castle"? The hatter nodded, grinning proudly ,,Right you are"! ,,Is this the surprise"? She turned to him, still shocked. ,,Surprise" he beamed at her. ,,It's wonderful! Thank you so much"! With a jump of joy, the blond hurried to hug the hatter gushingly. Tarrant, surprised by the sudden action, widened his eyes but soon wrapped his arms around her. ,,I'm happy you like it" he lisped. ,,Like it"? Alice replied ,,I love it"! Tarrant continued to grin ,,Want to see them close up"? ,,We can"?! Alice couldn't stop looking shocked and surprised. ,,Yes of course"! Tarrant laughed ,,I didn't bring you here just so you can stand and look at them from afar. There are caves behind the waterfalls, you can go inside". ,,But what about the basket"? Alice asked. ,,We can leave it down here". ,,Are you sure about that"? Alice frowned at him. ,,Pretty certain" he replied in his deeper voice. Something made Alice shiver from the way he just said it but she put it off. ,,Come" he offered her his hand ,,We need to climb a bit". ,,Ok" Alice took his hand and followed him up the rocky road. ,,I'm not that experienced in hiking" Alice stated after some time. ,,That's fine. I'm not a professional either" Tarrant gave it a glance upwards. Soon, they were half the way up the mountain. A good hundred feet above. Just when Alice wanted to take another step, some rocks broke under her right foot, crumbled away and she slipped. Just at the right moment, Tarrant managed to pull her up to his side. Eyes wide Alice starred at the spot where the rocks fell away. Still in shock, she clawed herself onto the hatters torso. ,,Careful Alice"! Tarrant lisped ,,Are you ok"? Just then he realized that she was shaking. His mood instantly changed and he intensified his grip around her. ,,It's ok" he whispered in his deep scottish accent ,,I've got you". Alice took a deep shaky breath. After a few seconds, she finally lifted her head to meet his face. ,,You've saved me.." she aspirated ,,If you hadn't hold my hand, I would have fallen down into my death..". Carefully Tarrant reached for Alice cheek to wipe a tear with his thumb. ,,I know" he blinked ,,But I wouldn't have let that happen. You're safe now. I'll make sure we'll make it up to the cave safe and sound". Swallowing the lump of fear, Alice nodded and wiped the rest of the shock tears. ,,Come, let me help you" softly he pulled her closer and helped her walk past the narrow road. Walking forward, he made sure, Alice was secure and right behind him. The fact, that Alice grip of his hand had intensified didn't pass him. ,,Tarrant..." he heard her voice call his name. It still sounded a bit shaken up. ,,Hm"? He turned to face her. For a moment Alice just looked at him, her mouth opened slightly but then she closed it again. ,,No, it's nothing. Nevermind" she turned her head to the side, her cheeks light pink. Blinking confused, Tarrant decided to let it go and not bother Alice to tell him.

A few more steps and they finally arrived at the waterfalls. ,,Wow" Amazed, Alice stretched out her hand to touch the water. Tarrant smiled relieved as Alice smiled again. ,,We're there. The cave is right behind that waterfall" he explained. ,,Can't wait"! Alice followed the hatter through a small opening, that led them right behind the rushing water. In the cave both let go of their hands and looked around. ,,Incredible" Alice aspirated ,,I've been at many places but never at a place like this". ,,Do you like it"? Tarrant asked her. ,,It's wonderful" Alice beamed as she turned around. ,,Thank you so much for bringing me here Tarrant"! Happily, she walked back to him. For a moment, they just stood in front of each other, looking at another, then Alice rose her voice again. ,,I am so happy to be back...I can't even tell you..". ,,You have no idea how happy I am to have you back here" Tarrant answered while smiling at her. Suddenly Alice started to feel the odd tingle come back to her stomach. Her heart speed up and her fingertips went cold, as he walked up closer to her. Oh how much she'd missed him. How much she'd wanted to be in his arms again, see his smile again, that grin that showed the little gap between his teeth, his emerald orbs in which you could get lost in, his fiery hair, his goofy and overjoyed behavior. His way to start rambling when he got excited, his gentleness and how he knew how to calm her down when she felt anxious or sad. The way his voice used to get low and form this scottish accent that made shivers run down her spine. And all of the sudden Alice realized what she was feeling. What she'd been feeling for the past six years. The feeling that started growing slinking and inconspicuously at first, was now clear and obvious. Little did she know, that her opposite felt and thought just the same things. It was the first moment of clarity. Unsure both just looked at each other, getting closer and closer until their foreheads touched. Alice started to feel dizzy, as if something clouded her mind. Tarrant as well couldn't keep himself from his own feelings anymore so he softly put his hand on her cheek once more. And for this time, both took the chance they'd missed the day before. Leaning forward, Alice conquered the last inches between them until their lips met each other. Tenderly and shy at first but then they intensified the pressure. While Tarrants right hand slipped from her cheek to her neck, Alice wrapped her hands around his shoulders. All the tingling that was locked in their stomachs, now broke free. It was like a firework, that exploded in their heads. Why did they hold it back for so long? Why didn't they realize it earlier? And after seconds, that felt like hours, they broke off softly, to catch a breath. Gleaming, their eyes met once more. Alice lips curled up into a mischievous smile which Tarrant retorted.

,,I love you Alice"! He aspirated ,,Always did and always will". Lovingly he looked at her, his green eyes searching in her face for a sign and she smiled even wider. ,,And I love you" she replied ,,In a crazy, mad and wonderful way"! And he too started to smile widely. Resting her head against his chest both enjoyed their nearness. Lovingly Tarrant placed another kiss on the top of her head. ,,I am so sorry it took me so long to realize it Tarrant" Alice muttered. ,,You're right on time for me" he murmured back into her blonde curls and they hugged even tighter. Slowly Alice let her hand down to find his and slid her fingers between his to clasp them together. How much she loved him. How much he loved her. It was like finally breathing air. For a long moment they stayed like that, hands clasped together. ,,What now"? Came the question from Alice. Tarrant, who had rested his head on hers, lowered it down to meet her gaze again. ,,Stay with me Alice, stay in Underland. I can't bear loosing you again. Especially not now. Now that I finally realized my feelings for you". Alice reached for his cheek. ,,I want to stay just as much as you want me to, Tarrant. After all these years, I now know that this is where I belong but..." she lowered her eyes and her smile faded. ,,But"? His eyes followed hers, and his chest tightened in fear. ,,What about my mother and Magaret? They're still in Upland and they think I'll return eventually". Tarrant looked at her, saddened and desperate but suddenly he remembered their talk on the balcony. Her words and his thoughts.

,,Hatter...I want you to know, that if it wasn't for my mother and my sister, I would have stayed. I did not want to leave you...". ,,Why don't you bring them here then"? ,,I can't...they wouldn't be happy here". ,,How can you be sure"?

Tarrant blinked.

,,I would always come back to you". ,,I know". He knew he couldn't hold her, if she wanted to go back to her family. But he now knew one thing for sure and it filled him with enough happiness to endure whatever might come his way. Alice would always return to him.

,,What do you want to do Alice"? He asked her softly and understanding ,,I don't want you to be unhappy". ,,Tarrant"! Alice replied a bit louder, gripping his coat on each sides ,,I'm more happy with you than I'd ever been up there. I know what I want now and I've known it for quiet a while. I just suppressed it". ,,And your mother and sister"? He asked. ,,I'll go back eventually and tell them that I belong here, tell them that I finally found what I was looking for, finally found my place, found the man I love and then return back as soon as possible". Tarrants smile returned and he rested his forehead against hers once more. ,,And your job"? ,,I'll just quit. I know my fathers ship means a lot but it's just a ship. He would want me to be happy more than anything and I am happy here. With you. You are so much more worth than my fathers ship". Still smiling, he leaned in to kiss her again and she retorted it. ,,Oh dear" Alice then laughed ,,What about the others? Should we keep it a secret for now"? ,,Why" he grinned ,,They know it anyway". ,,They do"? Alice blinked but rolled her eyes afterwards. ,,Yeah right, no wonder they tried to act clueless". ,,Do you want to go back"? He asked her. ,,Let's return slowly. I want to savor everything". ,,You know we'll have more than enough time for plenty trips now my dear" he took her hand in his. ,,I know" she smiled at him ,,Do you know who'll freak out the most"? Alice chuckled. ,,My sister"? He grinned. ,,Yes"! She replied and both started laughing. Smiling and giggling they climbed back down until Tarrant lifted Alice up at her waist and placed her down into the grass. ,,Oh, the basket, it's still there"! Alice blinked and walked up to it. ,,I told you it wont fly away" Tarrant snickered. ,,Who knows" Alice teased ,,Maybe this basket is a special kind and grows wings". ,,Maybe" he whispered into her ear as he pulled her closer on his waist. ,,Oh come on" laughing she pushed him away on his chest. ,,Let me at least carry the basket" quickly he scuttled at her side and took it from her. ,,Thank you" Alice responded. Hand in hand they walked back through the meadow. The smile didn't leave their lips. Tarrant for a moment even grinned as he remembered. It was the right thing to put down his thimbles and hi