Disclaimer: I am not, not have I ever been, the owner of anything but the things that have belonged to me.

Author's Note: When I first began this story, I thought it would take me a month or two at the most. Instead I have found myself writing it for over a year, struggling with characters whose actions had been decided far in advance and yet who were resisting my every effort to write them. I owe a great deal to everyone who supported and encouraged me along the way; without your kind reviews, I might have abandoned this story long ago. So thank you to all who've followed this sorry, poorly-written tale! Thank you for your patience, your kindness, and your generosity! I hope you've enjoyed the journey as much as I have.


He wakes slowly. The cabin is shrouded in shadows, but the covers over the portholes are imperfect and let some stray beams of daylight in.

Percy has grown used to the swaying of the ship in the weeks since they first set sail from England for China. He has become accustomed to keeping his balance while the deck rolls underfoot, and to drifting along to sleep despite the unsteady berth.

He doesn't think he'll ever be able to become accustomed to the heat of Alice's body against his side, and the weight of her head on his chest.

Something so precious should never be taken for granted, after all.

But the faintest clash of steel-on-steel draws him from his lazy musings. Alice's golden head lifts first, her eyes blinking sleepily. "Hatter?" she murmurs, still half-asleep. "Have we company?"

The ship rolls, turns sharply, and the metallic clash is both louder and more ominous the second time. "All hands, to the deck!" comes the faint yell, audible even in their secluded cabin. "Pirates!"

"So it would seem," Percy slides from the warm bed and begins to pull on his clothes. "It was terribly rude of them to plan a party without issuing proper invitations."

Alice is smiling at him as she does the same. "We should show them the error of their ways."

"They do seem to be lacking in knowledge of proper etiquette," Percy buckles his wand holster onto his wrist. He hands Alice her Vorpal Sword, and Alice takes advantage of the motion by grabbing onto his hand and pulling him close to her for a kiss, full of warmth and promise.

"I love you," she murmurs, and he doesn't even try to restrain the wild grin that lights his face.

"Shall we, my dear?"

Alice's grin is wide and toothy, her eyes bright with muchness and life. "We shall."

Together, they step out into the sunshine.