Title:Come To My Arms (My Beamish Boy)
Fandom: Burton's Alice In Wonderland
Characters/Pairing: Alice/Hatter
Genre: humor/romance
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Not mine, though I've started a fund
Summary: She's got things to do on the other side, certainly; but they can wait. A little while. He can't remember the last time he found undressing to be so amusing. But there is, it seems, a method to his madness.
A/N: I admit it. From the title on, I set out to write something that deserved a heavier rating. And then. And then. They wouldn't let me. They wriggled out of every situation I put them in and stepped on my toes and poured tea in my fedora and generally misbehaved until I wrote it this way instead. Also, my Hatter-hands obsession strikes again.

Come To My Arms (My Beamish Boy)

Alice finds the knots in the Hatter's haphazardly spotted cravat to be particularly difficult to deal with. Her fingers are blunted, the nails torn and scraped, and there is a curiously-shaped bruise on the palm of her right hand that she eventually attributes to the weight of the vorpal sword, heavy on her arm and slicing through and through.

"Don't you ever take this off?" she says. The Hatter blinks wide green eyes down at her.

"My dear girl, I fail to see the sense in starting there, of all places."

"Begin at the beginning, go on to the end, and then stop," says Alice, distracted, picking at the knots still, tongue between her teeth. She's going to work at this, and think about other things later. The idea of the battle kilt in which the Hatter is--- dare she say it--- rather resplendent, for instance, is placed a comfortable distance in the future. Especially if she never manages to loosen these knots. Her fingers are beginning to cramp up.

"That's hardly applicable in this case, Alice," the Hatter chides gently. "For one thing, if one is beginning at the beginning one would hardly begin at my neck. Top to bottom, perhaps. Or side to side. There's always this." He puts his arm straight out at her side, grazing her waist, and wiggles his bandaged fingers, which look as though they've been through more of a war than he has. She looks down at them.

"Your hands?"

"My jacket."

The peacock-colored fabric has a sheen unlike anything she's ever seen. She's taken his arm, grasped fitfully at his hand, but her mind still can't quite grasp what the feeling is, the cold unclammy slickness beneath her palm.

"What is it made of?"

"I made it." He fluffs with one hand at the blue lace edging the sleeve of the other. "Do you like it?"

"It's incredible," Alice says, allowing him a moment--- is he having second thoughts, after all? He's the one who told her what the rest of the poem meant--- She takes hold of the edge of his sleeve with both hands and tugs gently. "What did you say it was made of?"

"I didn't," he says lightly, and grunts slightly as she pulls harder on the fabric. His shoulders are shifting beneath the peacock-blue, narrow bones somewhere deep within, and what-- and what? Alice asks herself, sternly. And covered with only skin, surely. She wonders how many layers she will be required to get through. He's the one who started this. "But I will tell you, if you would like to know. I caught some clouds with the Skycatcher--- the invention of the old White Knight, you know, he was always inventing things--- and spun them on the Dream-Loom. I will have to show you the Dream-Loom sometime. You will be very--"

"Amazed?" Alice fills in. She has finally wrangled his arm from its place firmly ensconced in the sleeve, and walks behind him to reach the other one, taking the empty sleeve with her.

"Amused," says the Hatter, and giggles to himself for three and a half seconds exactly before sobering abruptly, his mouth turning down. "Anyway."

"But the color? If it is made of clouds, certainly you had to dye it." This is a perfectly natural conversation, she tells herself, and a perfectly natural thing to be doing whilst having it. She slides his other arm from the second sleeve, and he stands in his pale shirt, looking as though all the color has rushed to his hair.

"Ah, you see, Queen Mirana--- and she is Queen again, isn't that lovely?--- she helped me there. Very handy with obscure ingredients. All I required was three teaspoons of ground peacock and some boiling water."

"Ground peacock?" Alice stands in front of him, eyebrows furrowed in consternation. With or without realizing it, the Hatter's hands have started to mime the actions of a mortar and pestle. Alice's brow clears, momentarily. "Oh. Oh."

But he only gives a slight shrug, and looks at the coat, which she has neatly folded over her arm. "It is a beautiful thing, isn't it?"

"It is."

"I'm very good, you know."

She smiles before she can help herself. "I know it."

They stand quiet for a moment, and he appears to be drifting back into himself, eyes far away, a faint smile granting lines to the smoothness of his pale face. She wonders, for just a moment, what he used to look like: before. Before he took over his father's position as Hatter to the Royal Court, back when he was young. Before the color bleached from his skin, and when the weight of sanity was still carried in his eyes.

For the briefest of seconds, Time seems to open up to her, slipping aside as easily as a curtain, and in the depths of his eyes she can see what he's come from, what he used to be. It makes her shiver; and the motion recalls himself from wherever he is. Wherever it is that he goes, when he's not with her. His head tilts, his eyes find hers again.

"I meant to say," he tells her, "that it is of course up to you."

"What is?"

"The rest of the prophecy. We can take a look at the Oraculum, if you like."

She blushes vibrantly, which seems to amuse him. Everything seems to amuse him, really, and she can't quite decide if it's the mood or the time or the actions or just who he is. Whatever the cause, the smile--- falling just short of an outright grin--- is everpresent.

As a matter of fact, the Hatter can't remember the last time he found undressing to be so amusing. But he can't very well tell Alice that. The girl is embarrassed enough as it is.

"It's--- it's there? In the Oraculum?"

"Oh, yes," he assures her. "Quite clearly. But for the same reasons that you had to choose to fight the Jabberwocky, you must choose this, as well." His eyes glint down at her. "You were in rather a hurry, a short while ago."

She pauses, purses her lips, and thinks about it.

"Tell me again, Hatter."

His voice as he recites the poem shifts haphazard and slippery from his usual slight lisp to the heavier words of his childhood language. He explained this, as well: what she initially thought to be a foray into inexplicable Scottishness is, in fact, the language of Outlandish. There is, it seems, a method to his madness.

"'And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
Oh Frabjous Day! Calloo! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.

"Hmm," says Alice.

"And so you see, it is me," says the Hatter, abandoning Outlandish and reverting to the lisp again as his eyes light with enthusiasm. "I'm the one that warned you, didn't I? I told you in the first place, didn't I? And I was certainly the one saying Calloo, Callay."

"What do those words mean?" Alice asks, frowning thoughtfully up at him.

He blinks rapidly. "The original translation is lost to history, I'm afraid. But you can be sure that they're very joyful words indeed."

"Yes." She smiles in the general direction of his collar, somewhat reminiscently. "As the Futterwacken is a joyful dance."

"Well, I'm a joyful person," says the Hatter, turning his head to look at her sideways, and whispering as though this is a great secret. "When you get to know me."

"But," ventures Alice, "if you don't mind me asking, how is it illustrated in the Oraculum? I mean to say, you needn't be too specific if you don't wish it," she adds hurriedly, blushing again. "But you rather gave me to understand---" She stops and stares at him in consternation. "Is that why you were giggling?"

He's lifted a hand, a harmed and hurt hand, a bruised and battered and bandaged hand, to his mouth to cover the fact that he's giggling again. Chortling, rather, she amends, on second thought. A rush of embarrassment overcomes her and she stomps her foot.

"Why didn't you correct me?"

"That's hardly my place, dear Alice!"

Alice folds her arms decisively, drops her chin downwards to her chest, and glowers at him. He finds this even funnier.

"That's it!" he says gleefully, and claps his hands. "That's exactly the look you gave me when you were a child. How nice for you to have found it again."

"Mr. Hatter," says Alice, "I said I was going to leave. And you told me that the ending of the prophecy about the Jabberwocky had yet to be fulfilled. And when I asked how, you indicated that--- that---"

"I? I indicated nothing of the sort," retorts the Hatter. "You're the one that suggested we should adjourn to a quieter spot!"

"And you're the one who found it!"

"And you immediately began trying to undo knots!"

"Why didn't you stop me?"

"Because," says the Hatter, growing quiet again, the smile dropping off the edge into oblivion, as he placed his hands together before him and looked contrite. "Because, dear Alice, I did not wish you to stop."

"Oh," says Alice, and simply stands for a moment. Watching him, watching as he waits with uncharacteristic stillness; wondering if he will apologize. For implying such a thing, for allowing her to think such a thing, for wanting her to think such a thing, for encouraging her to behave as a well-bred young woman should most definitely not behave. But of course he's not going to apologize.

Because, she knows, he's not the least bit sorry.

"Well then," she starts again, "please tell me, Hatter, what it does show in the Oraculum."

He does not answer; not with words. Only spreads his arms, head still down, as he looks up at her with those brilliant and rather frightening green eyes.

"Come to my arms," he whispers, and there's a slight twitch of a smile before he finishes it. "My beamish boy."

And so she smiles at him, because she can't not.

"But only," he adds, chin lifting, and a convulsive worrisome little twitch starting up somewhere at the corner of his mouth, "only, Alice, if you really want to."

And so she says, "I do."

And so she does.