Chapter Seventeen - A New Future

Dimmed light streamed through hazy curtains, illuminating the room and it's sleeping inhabitants nestled under the covers on the bed. Shafts of sun played over the pale features of the female, causing her to moan softly as eyelids fluttered open, sapphire dull as consciousness woke up.

Mind settling into the land of wakefulness, Alice stared blankly at the sheets underneath her body before realising something heavy, something warm, was wrapped protectively around her bare waist. Glancing down, she saw a pale arm had wound round her, holding her firm against the owner of the limb. Alice shifted her head to look behind herself, staring at Tarrant, who was pressed closely against her back, fitting against her like a puzzle piece.

Being careful to not jostle him, she rolled over in the embrace, eyes fixated on the Hatter's face. A gentle smile spread over her lips, her gaze taking in his calm sleeping face. A hand reached up, fingers capturing a loose curl of hair draped of place on his face, moving it off to the side back into the mass of fiery-orange hair, rubbing the back of her fingers smoothly down his cheek affectionately. Upon the skin contact, emerald eyes opened, meeting Alice's own cerulean, honest emotions filling the endless depths that spoke of his feelings without words needed.

"Good morning," Alice whispered, fearing something would break the moment of she spoke too loud, rubbing her nose against his in greeting.

"Good morning to you too," Tarrant murmured back, resting their foreheads together. His eyebrows drew together in concern, causing his partner to become worried. "Are you alright?" At the confused sound from her, he elaborated. "From last night. I'm sorry if you are in pain; I did try to be as gentle as I could. Or-or if you regret what happened, between us, I-"

"Shh," Alice hushed him, one finger placed over his mouth to stop the continuous ramblings. "Hatter, Hatter, Hatter. My Hatter. How could I regret something so true and pure between us. I love you completely, with all I am." Blue eyes watched as Tarrant's own jade relaxed at her words, displaying his relief and happiness.

Feeling braver from his reaction, Alice sat up in the bed, displaying herself completely to his wandering gaze, and leant over him, one leg slung over his hips, allowing Alice to straddle him. Mouth positioned near Tarrant's ear, she dropped her voice to a seductive whisper. "And do, because I greatly enjoyed your talented ministrations last night, I'll give you something to remember as well."

Pulling herself up partially, enough to be able to see her lover's face, Alice noticed how Hatter's eyes had begun to darken to a drowning shade of green from her words, a large smirk on his face. Mirroring the expression, she began the movement that started the two on a delicious repeat of their performance from the night before.

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"What happens now?" Alice asked, cheek pressed against the back of her hand, which lay on Tarrant's chest. Both were lying back down on the bed again, Alice curled half-on half-off his chest, one of his arms wrapped around her shoulders while his fingers played with the golden strand absentmindedly. The couple was each covered in a layer of sweat, yet neither minded, the physical contact desired muchly between them.

"What do you mean?"

"With us. With everything, I guess," the blonde sighed, tracing invisible patterns over his skin with a finger distractedly, her mind attempting to sort it all out with no clues to hold it all together.

Hatter lowered his head, pressing a kiss to her hair reassuringly. "Stay with me."

An amused giggle escaped her lips, turning the corners up. "I thought I was already? Isn't that why-"

"Marry me." The two simple words stunned her into silence as she registered what her lover had really said. Tarrant continued to speak, nudging his nose against her head. "Be mine, as I would be yours. I love you, and you love me. I think that everyone else noticed it before us if my suspicions are to be correct. Help me rebuild the Hightopp clan together."

Alice rose from her position, using her elbows for support as she stared wide-eyed at him, tears gathering along the edges of shimmering sapphire. "Are you truly being serious? You really want...?"

A large hand softly caressed her cheek, causing her to lean into the contact. "I do. Be it now, or next week, or fifty years from now, I want to be joined with you for everyone to see and know. Become a Hightopp; become my wife. A mother to our children in the future."

The idea was spectacular, amazing, in her mind, but a few things caused Alice to be concerned. "What would I do though? I cannot just sit around all day doing nothing. And," her mind flashed back to all her previous visits to Underland, and the encounters with everyone who remained the same age over the years, "what will happen when I die of old age? I couldn't leave you alone." Cobalt closed at the depressing realistic thought, her voice dropping to a whisper. "I love you too much for that to happen."

"I will teach you the ways of the hatter personally, if you wish, and together we will make many wondrous hats that will amaze people. As for the other matter," Tarrant hummed merrily, grinning broadly as he stared at his partner with a twinkle on his eye. "Well, let's just say that Time still owes me a favour of whatever I want."

Alice's eyes brightened as she caught onto the unspoken meaning, flinging her arms around his neck gratefully, drawing the willing Hatter in for a loving kiss that he returned with just as much emotion behind it, ecstatic at everything coming together for the two of them.

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Plans made, and after a few more days to themselves to do whatever they wished together, the pair made their way on foot to Marmoreal Castle after sending a discreet message to their friends at Thackery's house. Not much was written in the note sent, just enough to spike their curiosity and make them travel to the grand palace. And it was there that both Alice and Tarrant shocked everyone at once by proudly asking Mirana for her help with a wedding between the two lovers.

The pale Queen was overjoyed at the news, gleefully offering that the ceremony would be held in the castle, with herself supplying everything and anything needed, as well as being the official to preside over their vows. Her ideas and suggestions were met gratefully with acceptance by the two, before being bombarded with inquisitive questions from all around them at the same time, to which all were answered decently.

The preparation for the joining ceremony did not take too long, as the couple wanted something simple and small despite the place they were staying at and with. Close friends were invited to witness the event, sharing happy tears and well-wishes for the two. Each was dressed in simple white, yet looked elegant from their emotions of the day and for one another.

Many gifts were given to the newlyweds, yet it was two that made them extremely exultant. Mirana had offered the services of the best carpenters and builders for whenever it was that Tarrant wished to begin to rebuild the Hightopp clan's village, feeling it partially her fault that it was burnt down and destroyed in the first place. Hatter put a stop to those feelings, demanding that she not think such dreadful thoughts, to let the past go and focus on the future; yet he thanked her profusely for the services.

The other gift came as a surprise to the both of them. Time had come personally to see the happy pair, and bestowed over Alice and their future generations the gift of long life, soothing one of Alice's worries. Though grateful, Tarrant questioned curiously the reasoning behind the well-appreciated token, causing Time to laugh jovially.

"Though we have had our disputes in the past, I consider you a great friend of mine. Is it such a crime to see one be unhappy later on in life if I cannot do something to fix the problem?"

Alice had personally hugged the figure-formed representation, thankful tears trailing down her cheeks as whispered words of appreciation were repeated to the stunned figure. A glance over to Tarrant for help was only received with muffled sniggers from the groom, finding amusement from the uncomfortable nervousness the age-old person was experiencing.

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Many years had passed wonderfully, filled with many moments. Moments of joy and excitement. Moments filled with tears and sadness.

True to his word, Tarrant had taught his wife the talented skills to hatting, marvelling at how fast and superbly she picked up the talent, making hats just as amazing as his in no time. Customers and viewers came to admire the head ornaments, requesting personal hats and purchasing those that caught their eyes.

During the first few years of their marriage, the couple had made many trips to the ruins of Hatter's clan. At first, it was to reminisce on what had happened there, and to properly lament on the losses, but it eventually turned to one of preparation and planning, ideas being made to restore the area to its previous beautiful glory. Mirana had stayed true to her word, calling out to all the builders and such when Alice sent the request for assistance. With how many put their hands up at the offer, the rebuild took no more than two years to complete, houses and workshops and whatnot popping up quickly and efficiently. The Hightopp couple had even made the decision to build a new house for themselves in the village, making it large enough for their first expecting child.

The first Hightopp child, a son christened Matthew, was born when people came to see Tarrant, wishing to join his clan and learn the exquisite skills of hatting. Surprised at first at the request, he had agreed, knowing that more people would be needed to help the clan to flourish and bloom. Under the tutelage of both Tarrant and Alice, the new members of the village learnt the ways of the hatter, changing their last names to Hightopp in honour of their head leaders and the memories they were bringing to life and more. The women loved to fawn over the newborn babe, much to the amusement of his parents, remarking on how he took after his father's colour of hair that fell straight, with the slightest hint of curls, yet had a wonderful mixture of bright green and sea blue eyes.

With the good times though came the bad. Although content with her life now, Alice still could not quite escape the horrors of before. Now and then she would wake up at night, crying terribly from the nightmares that replayed over and over in her head. Ashamed she was, yet welcomed the understanding comfort Tarrant gave continuously, hating herself at those moments for not being able to ever fully heal. Far and few were the times that it happened, leading to the gratefulness of the lovers.

Presently, the couple were standing on the front porch of their larger house, watching the scene in the village square of their son playing joyfully with the other children of his age. Alice's hands were placed delicately over her swollen belly, feeling the unborn twins kicking and moving inside of her, one hand laced with that of Tarrant's, who stood directly behind her, arms wound around her waist, his chin resting against the top of her head.

"Good afternoon Alice, Tarrant," one of the women called out as she walked past the observing couple, waving as they looked to her.

"And good afternoon to you, Agytha," Alice replied, nodding her head in acknowledgement, smiling brightly. "Having a good day?"

"I am, thank you. Just making my way over to the merchant who showed up yesterday. I heard from Durian that he has some wonderfully coloured ribbons and material that I'm eager to look at!" the Hightopp clan member announced elatedly, clapping her hands together to further demonstrate her excitement.

Alice felt her Hatter's posture straighten in eagerness at the statement, causing the blonde to laugh. "Sounds fun. I hope your venture goes well then."

Agytha laughed, also noticing the male's reaction. "Thank you," she called out as she continued her way to the destination.

Tilting her head back to rest against his shoulder without accidentally knocking her hat off, Alice looked up into her husband's face. "If you want, you can go," she said, observing the expression change to one of sheepish embarrassment at being caught.

"Are you sure? I mean-"

"Go on," she laughed, cutting off his words. "I know you want to. Besides," she added, turning back to watch their energetic son playing, "we need some new materials soon. You and I have almost run out, especially if either of us is going to begin teaching Matthew the future skills of his namesake." The woman untangled their arms, giving her husband a playful push.

Tarrant hummed low in his throat as agreement, giving a hug and peck on her cheek before descending the porch stairs, following the direction Agytha had just gone in.

Alice released a pleasant sigh, glancing to stare at the clouds in the sky, absentmindedly rubbing her rounded stomach. Her mind reminisced over her life so far, reflecting on the struggles she had to go through that helped make her the woman she was now. Years ago she could never have imagined being able to move on from that terrifying incident. Yet here she was, loved dearly by her heart's only desire, blessed with a child and two more on the way, living peacefully, contently, however she wished to be.

And she would have it no other way.

"Mommy! Mommy! Look what I found!"

A smile tugged at her lips as Alice made her way over to her calling son. "What have you got there?"

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Whoa, it is finally finished! After a few years and much struggles, it's complete. It is probably rushed at the end, and there are many mistakes and things that aren't quite right, but overall, I'm pretty glad about it all. Thank you for all those who have ended up staying the whole way through, and for those who began at any other time. I hope you enjoyed reading!

- Seth-the-Inu