"Ripples to tell an Image By"

Genre: Drama, Friendship
Rating: PG
Time Frame:Tim Burton's "Alice", missing scene
Characters: Alice Kingsleigh, Tarrant Hightop

Summary: It's one thing to refuse to slay in behalf of a dream, but when a friend's head is on the line, one learns impossible things quite quickly, you see.

Notes: Okay, so I was not going to jump on the bandwagon for this – as much as the Lewis Carrel book was adorable, (and I adore Johnny Depp), the hype for this movie was ridiculous. I mean - Hot Topic was covered in hearts (Hearts!), Canon Wonderland was slaughtered just from watching the trailer, and fangirls around the world were flailing before even seeing the blasted thing . . . I went to see the film high expecting to be disappointed. Surprisingly, I liked it – like, alot. It was a new look on classic characters, while being perfect parts dark-ish and child-ish. I enjoyed it. (Of course, the biggest enjoyment came from viewing everything through red tinted shipper glasses – it's the unrepentant romantic in me coming out . . . Again.)

So, this jumble of words (for those of you who made it this far) is just me saying that my muse is enamored, and here we go . . . Erica, darling, this is for you, you little obsessee. I probably would not have spewed this out otherwise. ;)

Disclaimer: Nothing is mine but for the words.


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"Ripples to tell an Image By"
by Mira-Jade

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In the end, she decides that it's frightfully vexing to have a memory that only works backwards.

You see, many of her problems could have been solved with a memory that worked forwards and sideways-wards and every other way-wards; just like everyone elses. Instead, she found her thoughts mired in the insistence of dreams, and the denial of memory itself. It was easier that way. Safer, as well. Less impossible, even. From the beginning there had been ripples to tell the image by, to be sure, but she had not been looking carefully enough. She had not wanted to.

In the end, it takes a caterpillar's wisdom, and a crack in her own shell for her to acknowledge what had been right beyond her fingers this whole time.

She couldn't catch her breath once her mind snared on the newly illuminated information; it shook in her lungs and rattled deep in the hollow parts of her bones before echoing madly behind her eyes. She couldn't seem to stop her hands from shaking, either, and she reveled for a moment in the thrill of the fear coursing through her – curious, that she had not known true worry until this very moment. In the days prior, she had not known the emotion as she knew it now – not even while staring down the Bandersnatch or sitting in the Red Queen's court. She had been confident in her dream's ability to protect her from harm. Now, her fear rose like terror on her tongue, the taste was enough to make her gag.

She curved her fingers over the marble railing, her eyes tangling with the thundering falls beyond the White Queen's palace, shimmering as they were in the pink and violet light of the sky pressing in above. If she could concentrate on that, then perhaps the pounding in her head wouldn't be quite so defined. She didn't care for it at all, you see. Not one bit - and those things not cared for surely should be removed . . .

Her fingers tightened over the railing. She was starting to even think nonsense now, wasn't she?

The thought that she just may be a trite bit mad didn't bother her as much as it used to before. Instead the feeling grounded her, pulling a ray of humor and hope through the thick cloud of horror that seemed to have overtaken her mind.

She took a deep breath in, and let it flutter past her lips as she exhaled. She thinks that she felt some of the fear leave her then. With careful, determined steps, she turned and walked back inside of the castle.

And as she walked, she remembered. One step. She remembered being younger . . . so very young with dreams every night and stories on the evening air. Two steps. She remembered setting tea parties for her mother with a dozen different place settings and riddles on her lips . . . ravens and writing desks and poetry and pens and fools and kings and marvelous and magnificent things. All hers . . . hers. Myself and me and mine. A thousand of these things and more.

Another step. She remembered a kind face from her dreams; burning her hand on tea, and bandaging it with strips of brightly colored cloth. She had awakened from that dream to have the same marks and bindings, did she not?

How did she ever think this a mere dream?

She stopped walking upon reaching the White Queen's throneroom. Tilting her head, she curiously lifted here pale and bloodless to hesitantly touch the lonely looking armor that waited for her. The metal was warm under her touch, humming in a welcome, almost. She traced a hand over the etchings on the breastplate, watching as the light played over her fingers. Shining in metallic shades of pale gold and crimson by turns.

This time, when she picked up the Vorpal sword, the weight did not feel awkward in her hands. The groves of the hilt seemed perfectly made for her fingers; the whole of it perfectly balanced for her form.

A thought brushed past her mind, welcome. The sword was hungry, it ached . . . in her hold it would sate itself, it knew. In her travels, she has seen much more strange things than a sentient sword, but she blinked at the thoughts in her mind, still the same.

"Curious," she mumbled.

Leaving the armor, she took a step off of the dais, and swung the sword in a slow, lazy motion. There was a hum and a ripple on the air as she sharp blade cut easily through it. There was a flicker of joy in her mind – a finally sort of sensation that she could empathize most acutely with.

Another swing, and she could feel the tremble from her hands cease even more.

Another, and she'd wager to say that she was almost confident.

She swung it again, and moved her feet in time to the motion, feeling how to balance and move this way and that to counter the long reach of the weapon in her hands. She closed her eyes, and tried to recall a hardly remembered face from her childhood – the thing of her nightmares; the least wondrous part of the land of her creation – glinting eyes of black fire and wicked claws pulling at a small jacket and large pocket-watch. She half expected the creature to adjust an eye glass before spewing lightning, violet and terrible, in her direction.

She saw the face in her mind, and struck -

And opened them to the sound of clapping.

She paused in the middle of her imaginary battle, her cheeks flaming as the sword grew cold in her hand. Straightening, she brushed an ever wayward strand of hair from her eyes and wiped her clammy hands on the rich fabric of her robe. She didn't turn – she didn't need to – she'd know the weight of that gaze, the deep baroque beneath the level tones, anywhere.

"Oh, don't stop on my account," was the cheery voice when she turned. "You were simply marvelous, my dear, and marvelous things should not come to an end because of an audience."

A smile threatened to quirk at the corner of her lips at the Hatter's odd turn of phrase. Under the happy tones, she could hear the question. She tossed her head a bit at it, letting the rest of her hair fall into a semblance of order before turning to face her friend. Sure enough, Tarrant was there standing at the throne room's entrance, leaning lazily on the wall, his hat low over the eyes that were watching her with a weighty sort of curiosity.

"I got a little bit carried away," she admitted ruefully in a small voice.

The green eyes pondered that for a moment. "And what's the harm in that? I'd dare to say that I'm carried away at least three times a day – and that's just before tea. Where, I cannot precisely say, but I can say that I am no longer here but there."

She lifted a brow at that, but said nothing. In her hands, the sword hummed, as if urging her on.

The Hatter looked down at the cheeky weapon. "Ah . . . So you've accepted it?" His voice was carefully blank, absent of northern lilt and mad cadence both.

"I believe that I have," she whispered, lowering her eyes to the sword again.

"And . . .may I ask what caused this accepting? Moments ago, you were quite keen with a mind made on the whole business of slaying."

She bit her lower lip; considering. "A caterpillar talked to me over tea."

"They do tend to give the best advice that way," the Hatter said sagely, nodding most seriously.

"They do, don't they?" she mused.

"Well, I'd have to take your word for it – I've had a mouse and a hare give advise over tea, but never a caterpillar. And seeing as how sense is often just a form of nonsense at the essence of our gatherings, I'd wager that I'm not the most reliable sort of contributor for comparing and contrasting."

"I see," she said, inclining her head. With a smile she turned on her heel to walk back over to the suit of armor waiting for her. The sound of trumpets and marching feet beyond the palce reminded her of the time she had left.

She narrowed her eyes at the sight of the suit. This was going to be tricky, wasn't it? At least she was the right size now – a tried and true Alice size for her to try herself and prove true in. She took a step towards the armor, and the paused. Tilting her head.

Well, this couldn't be much more difficult than a corset, could it?

"Do you need help?" The Hatter asked, seeing her thoughtful expression.

She took her lower lip between her teeth, considering. "I can ask a page – that's their job, right?"

"Once upon a time, it was," the Hatter agreed. "And yet, they mainly turn book pages for the Queen and her advisers now – it's a very important job, you see, seeing as how ruling would be tricky with papercuts. I can, though, find a Fish to assist you – flippers make great for these sorts of sticky tasks."

Only in Wonderland, she mused fondly.

"I haven't seen any fish walking about today," she said, considering.

"They're probably around rather than about - assisting the Queen's soldiers, undoubtedly," the Hatter said logically. She wonders if he knew that he was doing so. "Making do with me may be easier. More timely too." In his hand his pocket-watch ticked steadily, fluttering stubbornly around six o'clock.

She shook her head, sending blonde curls fluttering. "I guess you are correct. Do you know how this works?"

"Of course!" he said, sounding slightly miffed that she would question his prowess with a suit of armor. In her defense, it didn't look like a task he would normally engage in.

She took off the robe that covered the odd shirt and pant ensemble that Mirana had given to her. Perhaps the Queen's hopes had influenced her choice of wardrobe, for she was well and ready to start strapping herself in.

Leather gloves and heavy under-jacket and leggings were first. After that it was an odd procession of plates and buckles and then even more plates and even more buckles. Eventually, she thought that there were so many things to strap and secure that the Jabberwoky would be lucky to get anything past her.

. . . which was the point, wasn't it?

The Hatter hummed as he worked, and she smiled at the sound, lulled by that and the occasional flicker of his hands against her body, His touch was warm; it felt safe, almost. In the end, he only asked once, "Are you sure about this, Alice?"

She paused at the question, considering; wondering just how to phrase her thoughts and feelings. "You know, it was easy at first . . . When I thought that everything was a dream . . . Nothing can hurt you in a dream, you see. No one else can truly be hurt, either. After all, you can simply dream them better the next night – that's the beauty of a dream . . ." Her voice tapered off as she thought on how to have her thoughts spoken aloud without the strange sort of wrap arounds that her mind usually went through. At her back, the Hatter 'um-humed' in an encouraging sort of way. She couldn't feel his hands through the metal, but she could hear the slide of the buckles and the clatter on the plates. It was strangely soothing. "And then I found that this is not a dream . . ."

"Oh, it isn't?" he inquired, voice light and thoughtful, as if commenting on the weather.

"It isn't," she whispered. "You are all quite real."

She heard a sigh of what she could imagine to be relief from him.

"Well, that's the most delightful thing I've heard all day!" he said quite merrily. If he wasn't so preoccupied, she thought that he'd take her hand and shake it vigorously. Like a child playing at being an adult. "While it's a flattering thought to be made up by you, it's quite another thing entirely to know that you are real. After all, if you are not real, than can anything ever be real? And is nothing is real, it would be quite right to question everything, and then where would we be?"

"Here," she answered simply.

She could feel his smile. "Ah, quite right you are there."

There was silence between them as he worked. She handed him the armor one piece at a time, assisting where she could, but mainly just collecting her thoughts, taking peace in the gentle motion of his hands – moving her here and there and mumbling nonsense under his breath all the while. She moved her hair out of the way when it was time for the shoulder pieces, and imagined that she could feel his hands loiter in the tangled tresses. She could feel the sensation of bandages and tumbles catching on the feeling of soft before moving away quickly. He clenched his hands together once before returning to work.

She bit her lip at the curious sensation pooling low in her stomach – like butterflies, almost. Very warm butterflies with the most curiously flapping wings. Frowning, she reflected that the sensation was awfully pointed this time – the difference between adoring a dream and an actual man, no doubt.

The last buckles were sliding into place,. It felt like a clock ticking until an appointed time. Something heavy gathered in her throat – not quite fear, but more the tight sensation of apprehension. Her hands clenched together, stretching the soft leather tight.

"You're worried," he commented simply.

"Nervous," she corrected. "I've never slayed before."

"Ah," he chirped, "well, that is most understandable. I'd wager it will be quite easy, though – just hold on tight, and watch your head."

She raised a brow. "Is that all there is to it?"

"The general gist-lyness of the matter, I'd gather," he said quite merrily. He drew back from her, and walked around her to cast a critical eye about her. He 'hmmed' and clucked his tongue, adjusted this and that, and then took a step away from her. She stayed rooted to the spot, ignoring the odd inclination to walk towards him.

"Well, my dear, you look that part of a champion now."

She took a curious step, amazed that the armor was light – like a second skin; an extension of herself as much as the sword had turned out to be. She had expected it to be cumbersome. On the contrary, her steps were light in it – as if the metal had ensued her with some missing energy or courage. She felt quite alive within it's hold. In her hand, the Vorpal sword had seemed to transmit some of its own anxiousness to her. She was restless all of a sudden, restless and eager.

She shifted her weight from foot to foot, and smiled gently, "Thank-you," she whispered to the Hatter; her smile taking on something odd and foreign to her thoughts.

He took off his hat, and bowed low at the waist in a perfect exaggeration of a courtier's grace. "It was my honor, Madame Knight."

Rolling her eyes fondly, she took another step, and then another. Her footfalls echoed off of the chamber walls. Her thoughts felt clearer, her words easier on her tongue, and so she said, "You know, it was easy to refuse to fight to save a dream . . . But it was impossible to refuse to save those real and dear," she tangled her hands together in an awkward sort of move. "And that was the kind of impossible that I couldn't make possible."

That, at least, was something she knew that he could understand.

"That is a most dreadful sort of impossible," the Hatter agreed, his voice was darker around the edges, the upcoming battle letting orange seep into the brilliant green of his eyes. She stared at them for a moment, transfixed. "I wholly agree with you defying it."

"I thought you'd think so."

There was the sound of clinking armor from outside the palace as the marble cast army positioned itself to march. The Hatter looked up at the sound before turning back to you. "Are you ready, my dear?"

She looked down, considering. A whole new level of tingles was invading alongside the butterflies. She had the strangest urge to embrace him then – a just in case, and a thanks, and another time and another place merging together to form a queasy sort of impulse low in her bones. Instead she settled for saying, "You can go on ahead. I'd like to make an entrance." After all, one only had chances like these about once every lifetime. No matter that they were quickly tallying up for her.

"Indeed," he agreed, nodding emphatically. He hesitated once before turning from her, and she wondered briefly if he fought the same impulses that she did. The thought was a strangely warm one. Eventually, turn he did at the sound of trumpets heralding – there was not much time now, she knew. Already the Red Army marched, and it would not do to be late.

His footsteps echoes the whole time he walked away from her. She waited a second more, gathered her courage and her memories to her like the armor encasing her, and walked out after him.

She had a fiend to slay.

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FIN

~MJ

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