Disclaimer: Oh, I wish...

Author's Note: So, I was reading a France travel magazine the other day when I read the line, "The air was cooler than the wine" and this idea immediately popped into my head. So....err....enjoy!



By Wind Alias


It hadn't been an unusual request to start with.

When Tarrant had asked her to tea, she'd accepted without question. After all, she'd had afternoon teas with him before, and they more or less went the same.

The first surprise had come when, instead of a kettle, he presented her with a bottle of a wine. She'd raised an eyebrow but said nothing, simply watching as he poured her tea cup full.

When he'd poured a glass for himself she'd said softly, "Special occasion?"

"Not really," he'd said in his usual lilting manner. "I just needed a change, is all." At this point, she was extremely amused. The Hatter, the local party animal and the strangest individual she'd ever met, needed a change? But she just shut her mouth and sat back against the hard back of the chair.

Besides, a change in menu was always fine with her. Drinking the same Earl Grey day after day could get tiresome after awhile.

The air in the clearing seemed colder than the wine. They spoke amiably, and the Hatter never took his eyes off her as the night wore on and another bottle uncorked.

It was well past midnight, but the evening had such a pleasant atmosphere that they found themselves laughing and buzzing enough that they'd forgotten what time it was. Alice had been in the middle of recounting a story about Dinah when, suddenly, Tarrant leaned over, grabbing her hand.

"Do you know what today is?" he said huskily. His breath was scented with liquor, but not nearly enough to be offensive. Rather, it heightened the fuzz in her brain, and she found herself smiling goofily up at his mop of flaming red hair.

"No," she said softly. Her lips slipped a little, adding the faintest touches of a slur to her quiet words. Tarrant remained close to her; the heat of his breath felt good against her cheek, and she found herself leaning in.

"Your birthday," he replied softly. She didn't ask how he knew when her birthday was. She'd learned long ago that the people of Underland knew what they knew and pretended not to know everything else.

His eyes drifted down to hers. Warm, chapped lips brushed against hers briefly, and she closed her eyes, letting the taste of sweet, over sugared tea and bitter wine wash over her.

Pulling away, his eyes danced.

He held her hand until dawn's first light, when she'd quietly crept away, leaving him snoring softly at the table.

In all her nineteen years, no birthday party had ever given her a gift she would cherish forever.

Until now.